What Is a Vocational Expert and Why is One Present at Your Disability Hearing?

March 23rd, 2020
Disability Hearing

Thank goodness for Google and smartphones. Back in the day, if we got into a disagreement about who won the best picture Oscar back in 1978 (Annie Hall, in case you were wondering, Star Wars was robbed that year), then you would have to hope the right answer would come to you. Now, however, we have an expert who can tell us the right answer to most everything right in our pockets. So, when there is a disagreement about an issue, a quick web search will easily settle the dispute.

Strangely enough, the same is true when seeking Social Security Disability Benefits. If you are faced with a dispute about whether you are eligible for disability benefits, then it really helps to have an expert at your disposal to provide information to settle the dispute. That is where a Vocational Expert comes into play.

In this blog, we will discuss the fundamentals of what a vocational expert does and why you are likely to need the help of a vocational expert if you are able to have a hearing on your request for Social Security Disability Benefits.    

If you have more questions about your own situation after reading this article, then we welcome you to talk to us at Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS).   

We are one of the most experienced employability and life care planning firms in the United States. To discuss your case, call us at 1-800-292-1919, contact us at a location near you, or through our online form.

A Brief Review of the Social Security Disability Insurance Process

As you know, Social Security pays disability benefits to those who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last more than one year or result in death. Normally, if you are seeking disability benefits through the federal government’s Social Security system, then you would apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  

If your application is rejected, then you have the option to appeal that decision. The appeal process involves further paperwork, with the ultimate goal of getting a hearing on your request before an Administrative Law Judge, commonly referred to as an ALJ.  

It is during that hearing process that you will need an expert to discuss your prior work history, the work skills you possess, and how your medical condition impacts your ability to work.  That expert is the Vocational Expert.

What Makes a Vocational Expert an Expert at All?

Vocational experts are not necessarily medical experts. While they must review medical information about you, the SSDI applicant, they are experts in matters involving work, i.e., vocations.  A vocational expert’s field of expertise may include the following subjects:

1. Ability to complete certain types of work;
2. Vocational rehabilitation
3. A person’s earning capacity based on a number of factors;
4. The cost of replacing labor for an employer, based on a number of factors;
5. Analyzing data about the amount a person loses in the ability to complete daily life activities due to a medical condition.

Does the Vocational Expert Work for the Social Security Administration?

No. A vocational expert is impartial. That means that he or she has no stake in the outcome of a particular appeal hearing and is not there to take sides. Rather, the vocational expert will serve as an expert in the occupational skills at hand to advise the ALJ in making a disability decision.

Why Is a Vocational Expert Present at Your Disability Hearing?

The vocational expert will be a part of your SSDI appeal hearing before an ALJ because a vocational expert is expected to provide an expert opinion based on his or her occupational expertise.  

Generally, you as the applicant for benefits will have limited contact with the vocational expert, with the exception of a possible interview with the vocational expert to see your condition. But, normally, the vocational expert’s role is to provide independent, unbiased, testimony about what a person with your medical condition can do with regard to work and regular day-to-day routine activities. Indeed, the substance of a vocational expert’s testimony at a hearing will be to discuss whether a person with the claimant’s disability will be able to perform his or her most recent occupation.  

Does a Vocational Expert Always Testify?

Not always. It is possible for an ALJ to seek out the testimony of a vocational expert in some cases. However, if the required documentation and testimonials that are already part of the record provide sufficient information for the ALJ to make a determination, then a vocational expert may not be asked to give live testimony at a hearing.  

Make no mistake, a vocational expert can have a substantial impact on your disability appeal. In fact, a vocational expert may be more helpful to your appeal than a medical expert. Unlike a purely medical expert, a vocational expert can provide an expert opinion about your ability to carry out tasks and do certain types of work.  

OAS Will Help You Understand the Value of Your Case  

OAS specializes in working with the plaintiff or defense attorney to assist in objectively documenting the economic damages in a case. From the initial referral to the trial testimony, OAS works with the retaining attorney so that the damages of the case can be objectively and efficiently presented. 

We strongly believe in the importance of a clear and understandable presentation of the facts. OAS is the leading provider of Vocational Expert and Life Care Planning Services for Plaintiff and Defense attorneys

The company specializes in assisting attorneys in documenting the damages in cases where an individual has been severely injured by providing objective findings on how the injuries affect a persons’ ability to work and earn money, as well as the cost of care required in catastrophic injuries.

OAS is your Vocational Expert & Life Care Planner Nationwide, with offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California.  

Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. is one of the most experienced employability and life care planning firms in the United States. To discuss your case, call us at 1-800-292-1919, contact us at a location near you, or through our online form.