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Disability lawyers and representatives are vital when a hearing involves a vocational expert

If you choose to go without representation at the disability application and reconsideration levels, you may or may not run into any problems on your claim; however, many claimants have no difficulty at these levels.

The hearing is different. In a recent post, I stated why it is that an attorney who is experienced with social security disability and SSI claims would be better prepared than an unrepresented claimant (which all boils down to familiarity with SSA rules and regulations, and expertise in presenting medical evidence and in developing a rationale for approval).

Well, here's another reason why you shouldn't go alone. Sometimes, an ALJ (administrative law judge) will decide to have a VE present at the hearing. What is a VE? This is a vocational expert.

What is the purpose of the vocational expert? There are two possible definitions for this. One is that a vocational expert may be required to advise the judge as to the availability of jobs in the national economy for an individual who has a specific set of functional limitations (based on a reading of the claimant's medical evidence).

The second way to define the purpose of the vocational expert, however, is this: the judge has already developed the opinion that you will be denied on the basis of being able to perform "other work" and would like to have a vocational expert present at the hearing to substantiate this.

How is this justification made? The judge at the disability hearing will typically present a hypothetical scenario to the vocational expert that A. addresses the claimant's current limitations (how much the claimant can lift, how long the claimant can sit or stand, whether or not the claimant can bend, stoop, reach overhead, etc, etc) and B. asks the vocational expert whether or not jobs exist in the "national economy" that a person with such limitations could possibly do.

In other words, the disability judge is fishing for a particular answer that he wants. Not surprisingly, judges often get exactly the answer they want, especially since they are allowed to pick the specific vocational expert they want for their hearings.

It doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out that the entire nature of the vocational expert being present at a hearing can be adversarial to the claimant.

How does a claimant counter the statements issued by a vocational expert? Typically, by knowing enough about the disability system and the vocational aspects of it to either challenge the vocational expert's assertions or to present a counter hypothetical based on some aspect of the claimant's background (medical and/or vocational) that the judge and vocational expert may have somehow missed.

Of course, most claimants will not be able to do this, whereas, experienced and able disability lawyers generally have a fair amount of experience in handling VE's.

It bears repeating: applicants for social security disability and SSI should not go to hearings unrepresented.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How to file for disability in Wyoming
Cases that win disability benefits
Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Daily Activities?
Using an RFC form to win a disability case
Using an RFC form to qualify for disability at a hearing
What medical conditions can I get disability for?
Using a letter from a doctor at a disability hearing
When to appeal a denial of SSD or SSI benefits
Applying for disability with degenerative disc disease
How to file for disability in Kentucky
Winning at a Social Security Disability hearing
What is usually the status of your social security disability or SSI case?
Steps and Tips for requesting a disability hearing
Preparation to win a disability hearing
How Does Social Security Decide If You Are Disabled

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How and why to check Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability back pay
Non medical requirements for disability
Qualifying for disability, SSD SSI
When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
Who qualifies for SSI?
Forms to complete when filing, applying for disability
How long does SSDI and SSI disability take to get?
Filing for disability with Depression
Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits with a Mental Condition
How long for a disability judge to make a decision?
While you are in your disability interview
The SSD and SSI definition of disability
Filing for disability with carpal tunnel syndrome
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Can you work if you get a disability check?
Disability application denied
File for disability, the application
How to get disability benefits
Conditions that get approved for disability
How to Appeal a disability claim denial from Social Security