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What’s the vocational expert’s role in an SSDI hearing?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Social Security Disability

If you’ve been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits a few times, you may now be approaching a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

A key player in the hearing is going to be the Vocational Expert (VE) who is hired by the Social Security Administration (SSA). A VE’s job is to assess the job market and understand the demands of various occupations. Their primary role in an SSDI hearing is to provide the ALJ with information about your ability to work.

How does the VE come to their conclusions?

It’s important to understand that the VE makes all their determinations without actually ever meeting you. They base their evaluation of your residual functional capacity to work based entirely on what they see in your medical records.

Once they have identified your physical and mental limitations, they then conclude whether or not you can return to any of your prior occupations or to any job that exists in the national economy in sufficient numbers to be feasible. This is what they will then testify to during the hearing.

How can the VE’s conclusions be challenged?

While a VE’s testimony (which is rarely favorable to the person asking for disability benefits) can be influential, it’s not infallible. Their opinions can be challenged by:

  • Pointing out inconsistencies and errors in their statements
  • Challenging the basis of their conclusions about your residual functioning capacity
  • Creating hypothetical scenarios that illustrate your real-life situation 
  • Providing a contrasting opinion from another vocational expert

This is where it can be essential to have experienced legal guidance both before and during your SSDI hearing.