Ohio Social Security Disability And SSI Legal Blog

What is a vocational expert’s role at an SSD hearing?

Navigating the Social Security Disability (SSD) process can be challenging, no matter what your condition. Many people with perfectly valid claims ultimately find themselves at a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), hoping to overturn an SSD denial.

At any SSD hearing, one of the key players is likely to be a Vocational Expert (VE) hired by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to try to justify their denial of your claim.

What is a vocational expert?

A VE is a professional with specialized knowledge in the job market and employment trends. VEs are supposed to give the ALJ their opinions on a given individual’s ability to work and perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) despite their impairments.

VEs rely on their expertise to identify jobs that match the claimant’s residual functional capacity – which is the maximum level of work-related activities they can perform despite their impairments. Vocational experts typically consider factors such as the disability applicant’s:

  • Physical and mental limitations
  • Work history
  • Age
  • Education
  • Transferable skills

The problem is that VE’s frequently present the “paper” version of a job, which is far from the reality that people actually experience. For example, they may say that an x-ray nurse only does minimally strenuous work – without factoring in the number of times they might have to reposition heavy patients who aren’t able to reposition themselves in a given day.

Often the best chance that someone has to get their disability claim approved is by successfully challenging a vocational expert’s negative and/or incomplete findings before the ALJ. Obtaining experienced legal assistance in achieving this aim, given its complexity and what is at stake, is wise.