The Social Security process is complex. It can be overwhelming trying to understand the ins and outs of what is occurring with your claim, especially at your hearing. Sometimes, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will call a vocational expert to testify which can be confusing to a claimant. Even more upsetting to a claimant is hearing that vocational expert testify that you can be returning to a job that you’ve never even heard of.
A vocational expert testifying at a Social Security hearing is common. These individuals are considered to be experts in the placement of workers and they have knowledge of the employment landscape both regionally and nationally.
The purpose of having a vocational expert at your hearing is to provide the presiding ALJ with an assessment of the types of past work you have performed, your educational background and the extent to which you have acquired skills that might transfer to occupations other than what you may have performed in the past.
Then, the vocational expert is asked hypothetical questions that will present a set of limitations, and the expert is asked whether a person with those limitations could perform your past work or other work. The expert may also be asked to describe any skills you have which could be transferred to different jobs.
Things to keep in mind about vocational experts
- This person is not your enemy. If the expert is asked to assume that your physical and mental limitations are minimal, they will testify that there’s work that you can perform.
- Judges normally ask the vocational expert questions that assume that the only limitations you have are the limitations that the government agrees that you have. This almost always produces testimony from the expert that you can either do the work you used to do or that you can do some other work. The judge does not necessarily believe that you are not more limited than this.
- The questions will gradually escalate the amount of limitation you have.
Early questions may ask the expert to assume that you can perform light work, the next might put you at sedentary work, then the next might post some mental limitations, then the next might pose that you will be off task or absent quite a bit. Usually, the last questions ask the expert to assume that you have limitations that would be disabling. Expect the expert to testify that if you have those limitations, you could not work. This does not mean that you have won your case. It’s often difficult to discern which scenario the judge really believes describes you.
These questions are a normal part of the process. When you hire the experienced Social Security attorneys at Pisanchyn Law Firm, they will cross-examine the witness and pose their own scenarios that describe your limitations more accurately.
If you are worried about addressing a vocational expert during your hearing, call 1-800-444-5309 to talk to our experienced Social Security attorneys. We have offices in Scranton, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and will travel to you.