Many disability claimants are often in bewilderment as to who and why a Vocational Expert (VE) would be scheduled to testify at their disability hearing.
Many people mistakenly believe that just because they have a physical or mental impairment, they will be found to be disabled if they can only get in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and tell their side of the story. Sadly, without an attorney versed in Social Security disability law, you may find that you are not on the receiving end of a favorable decision.
In order to understand how to actually win your case before an ALJ, it is important to understand exactly what the ALJ will be looking for when your hearing is scheduled. This is a multi-step approach, and it goes something like this:
First, the ALJ will look to see if your impairment keeps you from doing any substantial gainful work. Then he or she will see if your condition has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more.
The ALJ will determine this by looking to see if you have done any work after you have stated your condition began; the severity of your phsyical or mental impairment; whether you can do any of the work you have done in the past; and whether you can do any other kind of work, considering your age, education and work experience.
The VE's testimony becomes very important when the ALJ is considering whether you can do any of the work you have done in the past and whether or not you can adjust to any other type of work (again, consdering your age, education and past work experience).
What will happen during your hearing will look and sound something like this:
The ALJ will ask the VE if you can do any of the relevant work you have done in the past fifteen years. If the VE states that you would not be able to do so, then the ALJ moves on to the next round of questions.
In this next round of questions, this is usually where the claimant will either win or lose his or her case. The ALJ will propose a number of hypothetical questions of a hypothetical person, but this hypothetical person looks and sounds just like the claimant.
In the first round of questions, the VE is usually able to state a number of different jobs that are available in the national economy that the claimant would be able to perform. In the next round, as the ALJ continues to add restrictions that the claimant has, the number of jobs may become fewer than the first time the VE stated there were a number of jobs available. Sometimes, the ALJ will add an additional restriction like that of the claimant and the VE will then be able to state that there are jobs still left or there are no jobs left in the national economy the claimant would be able to work at.
If the VE states that there are no jobs within the national economy that the claimant would be able to work, then this is a good sign that the claimant will be found disabled.
However, don't always assume that you have won your case. If the ALJ states that he or she will issue his or her ruling in writing, then there is no guarantee until such a ruling has been received. But, you can at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing you put your best foot forward before the ALJ.