The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits can be challenging. Understanding the system and the role of vocational experts can help you as you navigate the process. As with most government agencies, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has many regulations, rules, and acronyms. The more you understand the application process and the role of vocational experts and disability hearings, the better.

Consult with a Disability Benefits Attorney

If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to monthly benefits. At Disability Advocates Group, our experienced team of Social Security Disability professionals has helped many clients throughout Los Angeles obtain Social Security benefits. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation to find out more about how we can help you apply for the benefits you deserve.

The Social Security Appeals Process

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two different benefits programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the Social Security Administration manages both programs, they have different eligibility requirements. The Social Security Administration denies most first-time SSDI and SSI applications. After a denial, a claimant can submit a request for reconsideration. 

If the SSA denies the application again, the claimant can request a Social Security Disability hearing. A vocational expert will become involved during this stage of the appeals process. Vocational experts are present at most, but not all, SSA hearings. Vocational experts play an essential role in the disability hearing by helping the administrative law judge (ALJ) decide on the claimant’s application. 

What Is a Vocational Expert?

A vocational expert is an expert witness that the Social Security Administration will call to testify at a disability appeals hearing. Vocational experts have an in-depth understanding of job availability in the current labor market. They are also familiar with the skills workers need to perform certain jobs. The vocational expert testimony is important because he or she will help the administrative law judge understand what types of jobs you can perform with the limitations of your disability or medical condition. 

The vocational expert opinion will factor into the administrative law judge’s decision about the outcome of your case. Typically, vocational experts have substantial experience in the vocational rehabilitation field. The Social Security Administration usually requires vocational experts to have college degrees and demonstrate their in-depth understanding of the labor market. Vocational experts are qualified to provide evidence-based on the following:

  • An understanding of how the SSA decides whether a claimant is disabled or not
  • Knowledge and experience of current occupational and Industrial trends
  • Knowledge and experience of local labor market conditions
  • Job placement and vocational counseling for adult workers with disabilities

Vocational Experts Must Have Knowledge of Vocational Rehabilitation 

Additionally, a vocational expert should have experience and knowledge of using vocational reference sources that the Social Security Administration has officially recognized. These resources include the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, and the County Business Patterns and Census reports. Vocational experts are expected to have experienced when it comes to vocational and earning capacity, Vocational Rehabilitation, cost of replacement labor, lost earnings, and lost a building and time in performing household services.

The Role of a Vocational Experts in a Disability Benefits Hearing

When a claimant has been denied disability benefits and appeals, the administrative law judge will call in a vocational expert to testify under oath. In most cases, the administrative law judge will call the vocational expert and provide evidence about whether the claimant can do their past work or any other type of work. Before the disability hearing, the vocational expert will receive the exhibits from the case and carefully review the claimant’s past work history.

At the disability hearing, the administrative law judge will ask several questions of the vocational expert. The claimant and his or her lawyer will also have the opportunity to ask the vocational expert questions. Administrative law judges usually frame their questions as hypothetical. For example, an administrative law judge might say, “assume that a person with the same age, education, and work experience as the claimant is unable to sit or stand for two hours.” The judge may ask the vocational expert opinion about whether the hypothetical person could still do his or her past work.

In response, the vocational expert will provide his or her expert opinion about whether that hypothetical person can perform the previous work described by the administrative law judge. If the hypothetical person can perform the work, the vocational expert will consider whether there are any other jobs he or she could perform.

The Benefits of Working With an Experienced Disability Lawyer

Vocational experts play an essential role in disability hearings. During the hearing, the administrative law judge will question the vocational expert about your ability to work with the limitations imposed on you by your disability. Many times, the administrative law judge’s questions to the vocational expert are somewhat limited. Working with an experienced disability benefits lawyer is crucial during the hearing process. 

At Disability Advocates Group, our disability lawyers know how to question vocational experts thoroughly. Our goal is to ask questions so that the expert will rule out other types of jobs. For example, we may add the limitation of experiencing severe headaches to the hypothetical questions posed by the administrative law judge 

Our lawyers use information about the functional limitations you have because of your disability. We will investigate your medical condition to question the vocational expert effectively to show that you cannot perform past work or any other jobs because of your disability. 

Contact Disability Advocates Group For a Free Consultation

Disability Advocates Group represents clients throughout the greater Los Angeles area who can no longer work because of a disability. We have helped many clients successfully obtain the Social Security benefits they deserve. To schedule your free claim review or learn more about how our experienced disability lawyers can help you, contact our office today.