As part of the five-step disability Sequential Evaluation Process, the Social Security Administration must determine whether you can perform your past work, or adjust to different work in the national economy, given your physical and/or mental conditions.

In order to make this determination at the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will often ask a “vocational expert” (VE) to testify. VE’s usually have a background in vocational rehabilitation or a related field, and are supposed to be knowledgeable about the physical and mental demands of various jobs. They are also expected to testify about the numbers of those jobs available in the local, regional, and national economy.

How Does the Vocational Expert Help The SSDI Process?

At the hearing, the ALJ will ask the VE to classify your past work based your testimony during the hearing and the work history report you filled out as part of your application. The ALJ will then ask the VE a series of questions, called “hypotheticals,” which should incorporate all of your physical and mental limitations. Based on this hypothetical, the VE will testify about whether you can perform your past work or any other work even with your limitations. If the VE testifies that you can return to your past work, or adjust to another kind of work, it will likely result in a finding that you are not disabled.

But Vocational Experts Aren’t Always “Expert”

It has been our experience that all too often the VEs testifying at disability hearings rely on outdated or inaccurate job numbers, or simply do not have the training or experience to accurately calculate those numbers. In addition, VEs sometimes rely on job descriptions that date from the 1970s or 1980s. Given the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and the increasing reliance on technology in the workforce, many of the jobs the VEs identify are now much more complicated or might no longer exist at all in today’s economy.

Preparing For a Bad Vocational Expert Experience

The potential for harmful or inaccurate vocational testimony is one more reason why it is absolutely critical to have an advocate representing you at hearing. Your advocate will have the opportunity to cross examine the VE about their experience and methodology in calculating job numbers. Your advocate can also pose their own hypotheticals to the VE, encompassing more limitations than the hypothetical asked by the ALJ, giving you the best possible chance of winning your case.

About Citizens Disability, LLC:

Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled.