The disability hearings are critical of what evidence you may give to the administrative law judge (ALJ) to win your disability benefits. The testimony of your vocational expert plays a decisive role in the hearings.
What is a Disability Hearing?
Approximately 68% of SSDI applications are denied at the initial stage. However, that is not the final conclusion of your disability application. Instead, those denied can go for appeals at the local SSA office. This would lead to an administrative law judge hearing where you would be given a chance to 'prove' that you're indeed disabled enough to prevent you from working under substantial gainful activity. But that's not it. The ALJ may require both medical and non-medical evidence to see that your disability application was wrongfully rejected and that you indeed deserve the disability benefits.
While the ALJ may look for medical and non-medical proves to analyze whether you are able to take up any kind of previous work such as skilled, semi-skilled or non-skill work, they may look for expert testimonies by a vocational expert.
Who is a Vocational Expert?
A vocational expert knows about the in's and out's of the present job market, knows what skills are needed to perform certain kinds of jobs, freelance work, business work, etc. They are qualified to provide evidence based on the following:
- - An understanding of how the SSA may determine if a claimant is disabled enough;
- - Knowledge and a vast experience of the present industrial trends, occupational and local labor market conditions;
- - Experience and understanding of vocational reference sources that the SSA recognizes officially, such as Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dictionary of Occupational Tiles, Census Reports and County Business Patterns
- - An involvement in or information of vocational counseling and job placement of adult workers with disabilities into jobs;
So how does their testimony make your disability benefits win a yes or no? A vocational expert (VE) can testify to the Social Security Administration on the 'limitations' of your impairment, and prove that you're indeed disabled enough to get approved for the disability benefits.
In addition, a VE may also exhibit knowledge about vocational rehabilitation, lost earnings, lost ability, vocational capacity and earning capacity, cost of replacement labor and lost time in performing household services.
How the Testimony of a Vocational Expert Matters?
The VE can respond to the ALJ's questions about your skillful work better and more convincingly than you alone. Hence, it is most common that a disability hearing is concluded by the statement of a VE about your work ability, except when your impairment meets the impairment in the extensive SSA's Blue Book of Impairments.
Vocational experts are present at most but not all disability hearings. Also, the VE and your representative attorney may work together to do a better analysis of your case in front of the ALJ to back up your case. This is called cross examination which is common in disability hearings involving a VE.
Cross-Examination of the Vocational Expert by Your Representative
Although a VE is an expert in their field of analyzing your work ability, it is your job to counter their statement if you do not agree with them. Remember that sometimes a VE may state that you're able to perform certain kinds of jobs while you think that you're in fact unable to do so. Hence, cross examination is the most important part of a disability hearing. If you do not challenge the VE's opinions of what you 'can do' you may likely lose benefits at your disability hearing.
How Can an Attorney Help Your Disability Hearing Involving a VE?
If you're represented by a disability attorney, the ALJ would allow your attorney to ask direct follow-up questions from the VE. Your attorney would try to rule out the jobs that the VE present at the hearing may have stated that claimants with your conditions might do. An attorney would often include some limitations that the ALJ had left out the hypothetical.
No matter what, it takes experience, knowledge and skillful debate, of course with proper medical documentation to convince the ALJ of your disability. If you need help to avoid losing your case due to a VE, on a disability hearing, you must consult an experience disability attorney to represent you at the hearing.