When you have a hearing in your Social Security Disability case, expect a vocational expert to be present – either in person or on the phone. The vocational expert’s job is to advise the judge about the demands of your past jobs – both as you performed them and how others in the same jobs performed them.
Then, the vocational expert is asked questions which 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.
The first thing to remember about a vocational expert is that this person is not your enemy. Naturally enough, if the expert is asked to assume that your physical and mental limitations are minimal, they will quite sensibly testify that there’s work that you can perform.
The second thing to remember is that 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.
Third, the questions will gradually escalate the amount of limitation you have. For example, early questions may ask the expert to assume that you can perform light work, then 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.
Don’t expect your lawyer to pound his fist or make a big demonstration when questions are posed that assume very little is wrong with you. These questions are a normal part of the process. He can cross-examine the witness and pose his own scenarios that you believe describe your limitations more accurately.
After the hearing, ask your lawyer how he thinks it went. He will offer the best interpretations of what happened that he can.
If you have a Social Security Disability hearing schedule, let our attorneys help you prepare. Contact us today to discuss your disability claim.