When you and a Fresno disability attorney attend your hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may call on a Vocational Expert (VE) to seek input about our potential to do jobs other than the one your disability is now preventing you from doing. If it’s found that you can do “suitable other work,” this can affect your Social Security disability claim.
Questions the Judge Will Ask
When the VE is called, you can expect the ALJ to ask questions about the work you did and how you did it. They might sound something like this:
• What level of skill and exertion were required to perform the claimant’s previous job, as it was actually performed (as opposed to a job description)?
• What level of skill and exertion are typically required to perform the claimant’s previous job with similar employers nationwide?
• Could the claimant return to work if Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) findings show him to be capable of handling relevant work in his or her previous job?
• Based on the claimant’s RFC findings, which demonstrate an incapability to return to former skilled or semi-skilled relevant work, does the claimant have other skills that could be used to perform other skilled or semi-skilled work? (This question is asked only in cases where it’s necessary to establish a potential transfer of skills.)
The ALJ will ask the VE to identify any transferable skills as well as jobs to which they might be transferred. In addition, the VE will be asked to provide an overview as to the availability of this type of job locally and nationally.
The bottom-line question, in a case where the Medical-Vocational Guidelines do not provide a definitive conclusion about the claimant’s disability, will be akin to, “If the claimant is unable to perform his or her Previous Relevant Work (PRW), and the claimant has no skills deemed transferable, and the claimant’s educational level and RFC are X and Y, is the claimant capable of working in some capacity?” If the VE answers yes, again, he or she will be asked to identify those jobs, and speak to their availability in the local and national spheres.
Vocational Experts Should Not Offer Medical Testimony
When VEs testify, it is expected that they answer only the questions asked by the ALJ, and not volunteer any opinions about the erosion of the workforce, medical evidence or your state of disability, your potential for rehab, your ability to compete for available jobs, or your general abilities compared to others who do the same job. The VE should simply answer the ALJ’s questions completely and honestly.
If you have concerns about VE testimony at your disability hearing and would like to consult with a Fresno disability attorney about them, please complete the form on this page or visit our contact page.