Vocational experts are often called on to testify at Social Security disability hearings about what type of work claimants could hypothetically be able to perform despite their physical and mental limitations. This expert’s testimony is often the single biggest challenge your attorney has to overcome in order to win your case.
What can your attorney do to overcome the vocational expert’s testimony so that your claim can be approved?
Usually, one of the angles of attack that your attorney will take is to challenge the vocational expert’s research. Your attorney will ask the expert how he or she arrived at a conclusion about the skills needed to perform the jobs he or she says you can do. Your attorney may often be able to defeat the expert’s testimony by showing that the jobs take considerably more physical or mental effort than the expert indicates in his or her report.
For example, the expert may say that you should be able to perform your prior work as an x-ray technician despite your serious back injury and arthritis because you only had to push and pull the x-ray slides in and out of the machine and walk less than 10 steps between the machine and the controls. Your attorney may be able to rebut the expert’s opinion by showing that you actually frequently had to help lift injured, disabled or obese patients onto the x-ray table and back into wheelchairs or stretchers. You may also have been required to lean, crouch and stand for lengthy periods of time trying to get patients positioned properly for the x-rays, plus make multiple trips back and forth to the control roomâ??all of which is now outside of your capability in an 8-hour shift due to your disabilities.
Your attorney will also ask the vocational expert to cite his or her research, including the source and age of the information. If the research he or she relied on is outdated, that may make it hard for the vocational expert to justify the opinion to the Administrative Law Judge hearing your case. Similarly, if the vocational expert is unable to cite the exact source of his or her researchâ??which happensâ??that can also expose flaws in the testimony and help win your case.
If you’ve been unfairly denied Social Security benefits, talk to an attorney about how to approach your appeal.
Source: FindLaw, “What Happens at a Disability Hearing?,” accessed Dec. 20, 2016