The Role Of A “Vocational Expert” At Disability Hearings In Houston

One of the biggest sticking points in a disability claim is whether or not you can go back to work. Depending on your previous occupation, your disability claim may hinge on whether or not you can continue to work at your “old job.”

The Role Of A Vocational Expert At Disability Hearings In Houston

The Social Security Administration employs the use of an expert witness to help them determine your ability to return to work. Known as a “vocational expert,” these individuals assess both your abilities and the current labor market skills and needs, and testify in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing.

What The Vocational Expert Does

This is the person who looks at your limitations, the current job market, current skills, and your past work history and decides whether or not you can return to some kind of work, or if you are too disabled to work. This testimony is important, and can be the difference between having your claim approved or denied.

A VE is not an attorney, and their opinion is considered to be impartial. He or she will have degrees and training related to the profession, as well as related work experience. The VE will review 15 years of your work experience to determine if you have any transferable skills to a different occupation.

Job Title Vs. Your Actual Job

Just because you had a specific job title doesn’t mean you did the same thing as others with the same title. The VE must also understand the actual responsibilities you had and the tasks you were required to perform. It’s important that the VE know what you did in your last job, rather than a generally accepted job description or the description in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)  or the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is also important that you (or your disability law attorney) ask the VE to explain the job title and the associated duties used to describe your previous work.

During a hearing, your attorney will ask you questions about your last job, what you did, as well as things like physical requirements that were a part of the job. This clarifies the job title vs. actual job quandary so that your side is accurately represented. The VE should use the job title along with the skills and duties that were included in your previous work.

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

One option that a VE may use is a residual functional capacity assessment to find out what you can and can’t do in relation to your previous employment. This report describes the maximum exertion you can do in a normal work setting on a daily and continual basis.

Additionally, the VE and/or the ALJ will need to assess “function-by-function” to determine your limitations in the RFC compared to the requirements of your past occupations. If the RFC does not agree with the job conditions, you may be ruled disabled.

What A Disability Law Attorney Does For You

While the ALJ asks the vocational expert a series of questions, including hypothetical ones, a disability law attorney will cross-examine the VE and challenge their view on what you can and cannot do.

Cross examining the VE challenges him or her on his or her findings of your limitations and abilities and asking about things that the ALJ left out of the hypotheticals will increase your chances of winning your claim. Without an attorney, you’re at the mercy of people who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

Need Help With A Disability Claim? Let Herren Law Help

The Herren Law Firm has helped over 4,000 clients successfully win their claims. We can help with your application, appeals and help you through the process, and give you one less thing to worry about. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.