The Role of a Vocational Expert in the Social Security Disability Application Process

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) Septermber 16, 2020 – The Social Security Administration provides Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to workers who, due to a disability, can no longer perform the requirements of their position. However, the application process for Social Security disability benefits is not always straightforward, and may require an applicant to negotiate a number of hurdles successfully. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the process is dealing with the testimony of the Vocational Expert (VE).

A VE is an expert witness called by the Social Security Administration (SSA) during a disability appeal hearing. A VE is an expert who knows about the availability of jobs in the current job market as well as the skills required to perform particular tasks. The administrative law judge overseeing an SSDI claim will look to the VE to provide knowledge, experience and background to help evaluate an application. The SSA calls a VE in about 85 percent of disability hearings. The testimony of the VE can be crucial to the success of an SSDI claim.

The SSDI Hearing Process

During a disability appeal hearing, the administrative law judge will ask an applicant questions about their disability as well as their prior work history. After the applicant answers these questions, the VE will classify each of the applicant’s previous jobs and, considering the applicant’s disability, offer their opinion as to whether the applicant can perform any of those jobs.

The judge can ask the VE a series of hypothetical questions. These questions are designed to help the judge better understand the nuances of the expert’s opinion in terms of what type of jobs a person with the applicant’s disability can perform. For example, an administrative law judge may ask a VE, “What jobs, if any, could a person of the same age, education and work experience perform if they could lift no more than 10 pounds on a regular basis, could not stand for more than half an hour at a time, and needed to lie down throughout the day periodically?”

If the VE testifies that an applicant can perform their old job, the administrative law judge will typically deny the applicant’s claim. If a VE determines that an applicant cannot fulfill the requirements of any of their old positions, the VE may look to what transferrable skills the applicant has, and whether those skills qualify the applicant for employment in a different field.

Cross-Examining a Vocational Expert

After the judge finishes asking the VE questions, the applicant’s attorney will be permitted to cross-examine the expert. A good Florida disability attorney will ask the VE similar hypotheticals, bringing out other limitations that the administrative law judge may have left out. The attorney’s goal is to get the VE to agree that there are no jobs available that the applicant could successfully perform.

For example, a VE often will tell the administrative law judge that an applicant could work at an office job in their related field. An attorney may ask the VE whether a person who could not kneel down or bend to the ground could perform the necessary tasks of that position. Because most jobs require a person to bend down at least occasionally, the VE may be forced to say no. If there was documentation in the applicant’s medical records that they could not bend down or kneel, then that job would not be one that the applicant would be expected to hold.

An attorney would then go through each of the VE’s proposed jobs, identifying an applicant’s disability-related limitations, and getting the VE to agree that someone with the applicant’s limitations could not perform that job.

Tampa Bay disability Attorney David W. Magann reminds disabled workers who are considering applying for SSDI that the cross-examination of a vocational expert is perhaps the most critical part of a Florida SSDI hearing. Recent statistics indicated that the presence of a VE at an SSDI hearing significantly decreases the likelihood of approval. However, with the assistance of a skilled attorney, applicants can often discredit the VE and get the benefits they need and deserve.

Attorney David Magann is a Florida disability attorney with extensive experience handling the legal issues that many individuals with disabilities face. Attorney Magann is a compassionate advocate who unceasingly pursues the interests of his clients, and provides practical advice and counsel on a variety of legal issues, including social security disability, estate planning, veterans’ law and personal injury law. Attorney Magann has offices conveniently located in Brandon and Tampa.

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548
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