For those who have already experienced a Social Security Disability hearing, you may have an understanding of what a Vocational Expert (VE) is, and the role they play at a hearing. For those who have been informed that a VE will be present at your hearing, or-for those who would just like to understand the process a bit more-we thought we would take a minute to blog about VEs at the hearing level.
According to the Social Security Administration, the basic function of the VE "is to provide definitive guidance in the adjudication of cases which require consideration of the vocational factors of age, education, training and work experience." So, what exactly does this mean? Well, for nearly half a century, the SSA has been aided in their decision making process by the consultation of VEs, also known as Vocational Consultants. The VEs gather their information from different sources, including the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (a tool which uses thousands of occupational definitions to match job seekers to jobs), and use said information, in addition to personal information provided about an individual, to provide an ALJ with information regarding an individual's ability (or inability) to work. Administrative Law Judges rely upon the experts to provide information regarding an individual's ability to perform:
•1.) Their past work-any job an individual may have held in the fifteen years prior to their disability, and
•2.) Any other jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy.
Most often, an ALJ will pose hypothetical situations to a VE in order to determine what jobs, if any, an individual may be able to do. In doing so, the ALJ is attempting to determine whether or not an individual applying for disability retains the ability to continue working. If a VE provides information that indicates an individual can either continue to perform their past work, or other professions available in the national economy, this would presumably mean they would not be disabled. Alternatively, the information provided to the VE may indicate that an individual cannot perform their past work or any other work. Different hypothetical situations may be based off of limitations provided by doctors following Consultative Examinations, or reports from an individuals own treating physician. An individual's advocate will often, time permitting, pose their own hypothetical situations to the VEs, as well. While the VEs provide information to the ALJ to aid in their decision making process, the ultimate decision of disability is decided by the ALJ.
If you're a client and have any questions or concerns regarding Vocational Experts and their impact on a Social Security Disability hearing, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know!