Questioning a vocational expert is a critical part of the hearing process for determining disability.
They are deemed to be an expert witness because they know about the current job situation and what skills and abilities are necessary to perform specific jobs. They are often called on to provide expert testimony about the claimant’s ability to find work despite their limitations.
How Do You Know If You Qualify for SSDI?
Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, helps those who are unable to continue working because of an injury or medical condition. To qualify, you must meet three basic criteria:
- Must be able to earn at least $1170 each month
- Must have a condition which prevented them from working for the past 12 months
- Must have at least 20 credits in work history, which they earned within the past 10 years
If a person qualifies, they will attend a hearing to determine eligibility for disability. The vocational expert at an SSDI hearing will weigh in with their expert testimony.
A hearing is necessary to determine if the person could find employment even with their limitations. It must be conducted before the judge will award any person disability benefits. While this is a process and the hearing is only one part, it is an extremely important part to understand, especially in how the vocational expert testimony impacts the final decision. Of course, this is not the only way you should prepare for your disability hearing, but it is definitely going to be a factor in the outcome.
The Value of A Vocational Expert’s Testimony At Your Disability Hearing
The testimony of the vocational expert may be the single most important part of the hearing. They provide expert opinion on what jobs you would be able to do even with limitations. They will look at your work history and any skills you have which are transferable to a new job.
Also, they provide insight into your previous position where you were employed when you were injured. They use research to show that you should be able to perform those tasks even after your injury.
Some of the research a vocational expert may do is to look at your job description and your work history. They will determine what skills you have based on any past education and work experience that may help you find employment now. They will weigh that information against other jobs that have similar requirements to see if there are no restrictions which would prevent an employer from considering you for employment.
Expert Opinion on Job Options
The VE provides an expert opinion on whether you can continue in your previous job. If you are unable to perform that work, they must answer questions on what type of jobs are available for someone with your experience and education and with your limitations. For example, if the doctor limited you to lifting ten pounds, they would specify what jobs require minimal or no lifting.
It is important to note that the VE isn’t testifying directly about you. In your place, they use a hypothetical person who has the same limitations and abilities. This person is meant to mirror your situation without having the questions be directed about you specifically.
The judge will give the information about the hypothetical person and ask the expert if that person can continue at this same job. If the expert says no, they ask if there are other jobs they can do. The vocational expert will list other jobs for which they qualify for with their limitations.
Cross-Examination of Vocational Expert Witness
The claimant’s attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine the VE and ask the disability hearing vocational expert questions about their conclusions. For instance, they may ask about their sources to find out if they are outdated. If this is the case, the judge may disregard their testimony.
The attorney may also challenge the information from the expert’s research. For instance, a position may show no lifting is required in the job description, but in actuality, the worker may need to lift regularly.
Perhaps the worker is a medical technician whose job is to attach a piece of equipment to the patient. Technically, no lifting is required, but some of the patients need help getting onto the exam table. In this case, the work being performed is different than what has been stated and is now outside the scope of the person’s limitations.
A vocational expert may look at a specific set of criteria and not consider other details. A prime example occurs when a person must take off a certain number of days per month or week or a certain number of hours per day for treatment. They might be unemployable because of missing too much work even if they can perform the job.
It is the attorney’s job to review all the information provided by the expert and show that it doesn’t provide a complete picture of your situation and the options available to you. They may talk to their own experts and use resources that give a more accurate idea of your disability.
Hire an experienced Social Security disability attorney to represent you in your hearing. They can help you obtain the disability you deserve by asking the right Social Security disability questions of the disability hearing vocational expert to rule out any jobs they may say you can do.
Contact Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo for a free consultation at (844) 243-4843.