Is it a good sign when the vocational expert at a disability hearing says....

Someone recently asked this question and I will paraphase it: "If a vocational expert at a hearing cites the existence of jobs that a person might be suited for but also states that they lack the ability to perform those jobs, is that a good sign?

I responded with the following:

The vocational expert is basically there to determine whether or not a claimant can engage in what is known as other work. If a claimant is thought to be unable to engage in other work, then they essentially satisfy the SSA definition of disability via the 5-step sequential evaluation process, and this may lead to an approval.

There may be other factors involved, of course, such as the issue of engaging in SGA-level work activity (if someone is not working at a all, then, obviously this is not an issue). And for SSI cases, the issue of resources may apply. Resources is simply SSA-speak for assets. As of this time, a person can only be eligible for SSI disability if they have less than $2000 in countable assets (an upper limit of $3000 applies when the individual has a spouse).

Vocational experts are not always present at disability hearings, but they often are, and often medical experts are as well. And they are just one indication of why claimants who attend hearings should be very well-prepared, but, in most cases, represented as well. Responding to hypothetical situations regarding work and jobs is something no claimant will be trained for, or, in most cases, be sufficiently prepared to deal with. And, of course, this is why it amazes me that some people choose to go to hearings unrepresented. Skipping representation at the initial claim or reconsideration level is one thing, but at a hearing...especially when its taken 1-2 years to even get to the hearing?

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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