Vocational Expert Testimony At Social Security Disability Hearings
If you have been denied twice when seeking Social Security disability benefits, then you know it is time to file an appeal for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
At your hearing, your attorney and the ALJ will ask you a series of questions intending to understand what limitations you have that keeps you from working. Every question actually has a reason behind it, and you should take every questions asked very seriously.
Here is an example, "Please tell me Mr. Smith, are you able to wash dishes or do any type of light housekeeping around your home?" -If you say yes, then it could possibly show you may be able to stand or walk for a total of two hours per day, which may be able to show you are capable of performing sedentary work.
While you are giving your testimony to the ALJ, there is another person in the room with you as well. This person is called a Vocational Expert (VE). His or her job is to understand your limitations and give testimony as to what job you would be capable of performing.
But, Social Security law is quite vast and at times overly complicated. And, the jobs the VE is testifying to as to what he or she believes you are capable of doing on a full-time basis is more than just picking out jobs with requirements he or she believes you are able to perform. In fact, it is much more than that.
With each job listed, it is going to have a weight requirement that will state how much you would be required to lift frequently and occasionally during the day. They will all have standing, sitting, and walking requirements as well. In fact, each job will have a very specific detail as to what would be expected of this person who engages in this type of employment.
But, it goes even deeper, and this is where you can actually win your case.
Each job also is determined to be either unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled. There is a requirement of how long it will take to learn the job as well. And, each job will also have a mathematical, language, and reasoning level requirement.
I would like you to really understand the reasoning requirement, especially if you have a mental impairment that keeps you from working.
Almost all of the jobs listed by the VE will have either a 1 or 2 level reasoning requirement. It looks something like this:
Level 2: Apply commonsense understanding to carry out detailed but uninvolved written or oral instructions.
Level 1: Apply commonsense understanding to carry out simple one or two-step instructions.
If you're paying attention to the VE's testimony in regards to what he or she believes you are able to perform, you can really start to pick apart his or her testimony. In this case, many unskilled jobs are still listed at a Level 2 reasoning development level, and if you have a mental impairment, you may be able to show through your medical records that you are only capable of operating at Level 1.
Here's one more example:
A lot of times, a person is unable to sit for six out of eight hours per day in a sedentary type job. But, he or she may be able to stand for six out of eight hours per day. Many times, people with back problems find it easier to stand rather than sitting.
Now, on the surface, it would look like the person may actually not be able to perform sedentary work, but would be able to do light work instead. But, what you then have to look at is what are the weight limitations he or she has. For example, a person may be capable of standing six out of eight hours a day, but because he or she can only lift ten pounds, then he or she would not qualify for light work. But there again, if he or she cannot sit for a total of six hours per day, five days a week, then he or she cannot do sedentary work either.
Now, this does not mean you will be found disabled, but it does help you understand when the VE is testifying that you are capable of performing certain types of jobs. Once you understand the deeper definitions of jobs stated by the VE, then you can better understand how to appeal the ALJ's decision if you receive an unfavorable ruling.
Don't be a victim to the system.