What does the “vocational expert” do at a Social Security hearing?

Under Social Security regulations, it is not enough to have a disability (a diagnosed medical condition). Your condition has to be severe enough to be prevent you from being able to engage in a “substantial gainful activity;” typically full time, competitive, employment.  If you cannot show that your condition keeps you from being able to work, you will probably lose your case. 

At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has a Vocational Expert testify about the the kinds of jobs are available, and how work-place limitations affect your ability to perform those jobs.  

Basically, the Vocational Expert answers two questions for the judge (phrased as hypotheticals):

  1. Can you still perform any of the jobs you have done over the last 15 years?
  2. Can you still perform any other jobs which exist in substantial numbers in the national economy?

The judge uses the vocational expert’s answers to decide if you can still work (and therefore, whether you are disabled).  This makes the vocational expert’s role extremely important!

Bloomington Illinois Social Security Lawyer Dirk May wrote an interesting article a while back about vocational experts:

What do you do when the judge turns to the vocational expert and gives him the hypothetical question?

You need to listen carefully to the type of limitations the judge provides to the vocational expert. If you have a limitation that he does not list or that is in your medical records you need to ask the expert about the effect the limitation would have on your past work.

The vocational expert will often be asked to provide examples of jobs you could perform based on your limitations. Once again, listen carefully for the types of jobs listed. If you do not understand the job duties ask for details. Listen for the exertional level, such as sedentary or light. Ask what makes the particular job sedentary or light.

Typically, the Judge will ask vocational expert two or sometimes three sets of hypotheticals based on different limitations.  

  • The first set of hypotheticals may be based a form a Social Security doctor or technician filled out about your limitations.  
  • The second set may be based on a what your doctors have said about your limitations.  This often gives you your best chance of winning.  You have gotten your doctors to describe your limitations haven’t you?  
  • The last set of questions may be a mash up of what the Social Security doctor has said, what your doctor has said, and what you said during the hearing. 

Here is the $64,000 question:  if the judge asks three sets of questions, and gets three different (even conflicting) answers … which set of answers will the judge use to decide if you are disabled or not?

The only way to even try to answer this is to have done a lot of hearings with that judge and really know the Social Security rules and regulations.  Only then, can you hope to read the judge.  In other words, you really need to have an attorney by your side.

Read the rest of Dirk May’s article here.

Did you hear any strange questions, or answers, at your Social Security hearing? Share your experiences in the comments?

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Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. This site provides general information about Social Security disability cases in Colorado. To discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please review the full disclaimer .

About Tomasz Stasiuk

Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado Springs Social Security disability lawyer and the founding attorney of the Stasiuk Firm - a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases in Colorado. Follow Tomasz Stasiuk on Google and Twitter

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  • SoA.D.D

    I just had my hearing on wednesday. I have Always been depressed as far as remembered. I have anxiety disorder as well as bipolar disorder, o.c.d & other issues. including the fact I am a recovering meth addict (2 yrs clean) Feb,8. 2006 I overdosed on liquid morphine. I died. After an 8 hr coma I awoke. I have brain damage now, I was not supposed to live!
    -My point: During my hearing the questions directed at me where surrounding the facts of my past meth use. If I can take care of my daughter. things like this. I was not asked once about my time in hospital, how i have to write Everything down or i go in circles, or how everyday (even with the help of prozac) that I cant help but feel I am a wasted space! I am scared because I did not get a chance to spit out the things I was NOt able to remember that effect my life everyday! i fear after waiting 2-1/2 years that this hearing probably got me nowhere. at the end the ssi lady named off a couple things saying Un-skilled light… then after all she mentioned maybe light night janitorial. I am trying to have my attorney somehow submit the important info that was left out, before her decision is made. Think I can re-do the hearing/have a chance to submit documents to judge?

  • http://www.SocialSecurityInsider.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    Dear SaA.D.D.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    You mention that you have a lawyer. Talk to him or her. Your lawyer is on your side and is in a much better position to answer your questions.

    Generally, there are no “do-overs” with hearings. But yes, some judges will allow you to provide “supplemental evidence” even after the hearing.

    It is possible to request a “supplemental hearing,” if you felt you were not able to tell the judge what you wanted her to know. But, I do not think the chances of the judge approving that would be too high. Again, talk to your lawyer about this.

    If you feel that there were things that were left out, you could discuss those in a letter to the judge.

    The main thing is that you have a lawyer who knows you and knows your case. Talk to your lawyer to discuss your options.

    Good luck!

  • Luiz

    “Think I can re-do the hearing/have a chance to submit documents to judge?”

    Maybe. But be prepared to submit additional post-hrg evidence from your treating source about the dysfunction caused by the non-exertional impairment, since the GRIDs can not be used when non-exertional impairments are eleged. It will used, if your atty. file an appeal. Falls Church LOVES remands based in newly submitted evidence.

  • robin

    i had a hearing about a month ago,the vocational expert said there was no work in the united states i could perform and not even my past job .do u think that help me win my case.

  • http://www.SocialSecurityInsider.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    That's great! However, the judge at the hearing typically asks the vocational expert several questions — several hypotheticals. If the vocational expert said there was no jobs for *any* of the hypotheticals, then I would say it looks good.
    I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Good luck!

  • walter woodward

    I recently had a ssa before judge ivar avots in SC. The vocational expert stated in 2 of the 3 hypotheticals that there was work for me. In the 3rd he told the judge the was no work for me to do. The judge gave me an unfavorable ruling. It took me 34 months to get a hearing from the time I signed up for ss. So I guess the vocational expert was not heard because he slept through most of the hearing. It really bad when you are told there's no work for you but the judge thinks there is. Judge avots denial rate has rose in the past 2 years. I guess ssa told him to slow down on his approval rate. Don't know what my lawyer has in store but I'm waiting to hear.

  • http://www.SocialSecurityInsider.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    It all depends on which hypothetical the judge ends up using. At almost every hearing I have seen, one hypothetical allows some work, one precludes all work and one is somewhere in the middle.

    Just because one hypothetical resulted in the vocational expert saying there was not work, does not mean the judge will use that hypothetical in making his/her decision.

    Good luck on the appeal.

  • Disgruntled

    Disability is not a choice. Pain causes mental anguish and is hard to deal with if not impossible to deal with at a job. When people have had enough, their mental anguish resorts to violence. If you've got nothing left, you've got nothing to loose. The system needs to get its head out of its rear end and get moving toward a solution.

  • Disgruntled

    Disability is not a choice. Pain causes mental anguish and is hard to deal with if not impossible to deal with at a job. When people have had enough, their mental anguish resorts to violence. If you've got nothing left, you've got nothing to loose. The system needs to get its head out of its rear end and get moving toward a solution.

  • Sandovalc2

    i had a hearing today for my disability case?im epileptic (seizure disorder) that ive appealed..ive been denied before..im not sure what it means when vocational expert states something about work mentioning it in percentage..they lowered mywork limitations or what because they mentioned something about work not sure what its called to 50 percent and the vocational expert was the one that stated that..can someone help me i dont really now much about this and what it means?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    They could have been talking about an erosion in the job base. An erosion is a percentage decrease in the number of available jobs. For example a vocational expert may testify that based on a particular limitation, the number of specific jobs in an industry drops by, say, 50%. So instead of there being 15,000 available jobs, there are only 7,500 available jobs.

    An erosion does not necessarily mean SSA will approve or deny a case. Most of the time it depends on the FINAL number of jobs remaining.

    Check out http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2008/10/vocational-expert-voodoo/

  • Pingback: Social Security disability hearings: erosion in the job base | Colorado Social Security Law

  • Jimmie

    I had my hearing and at the end of the hearing the VE told the judge I was non competitive… can someone tell me what teat means?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    “Non-competitive” refers to the kind of work. Competitive work is, well, just regular work; with no set-asides, no accommodations beyond the norm. Work that is set aside for disabled individuals (for example: work through Goodwill Industries) is typically viewed as “non-competitive.” Social Security only considers competitive work in deciding disability cases. If an individual is not able to perform “competitive work” or is “limited to non-competitive employment” or if there is “no competitive work available” that is usually a good sign for a disability case. Of course, I cannot comment on the specifics of your case (see the disclaimer page). Also, keep in mind that the judge often asks the vocational expert several hypothetical questions with different sets of limitations. There could be “no competitive work” under one set of limitations, but there could still be work possible under another set of limitations. What I am saying that while hearing “non-competitive work” come up in a hearing is usually a good sign, it does not automatically mean the case will be approved.

    Good luck

  • Jimmie

    Thank you for your reply so quickly. The VE did give three hypothetical; however, the first two I could not do because of my limitiations. They did bring up one of my former jobs; however, the judge asked him if I could do that job and that is when the VE said I was non-competitive. I was a oil field worker and a CDL driver and those two jobs I could not do. My last job was when I was in college and did telemarketing. That was the last job they mentioned and that is when the VE said I was non0competitive. Thanks for your input

  • Jimmie

    Mr Stasiuk, lets say they approve my SSI what date will they use for my disability? They day I was involved in a car accident? They day I applied for SSI? Or my hearing date? Secondly, what is the truth about the 5 month waiting perid? Someone should write and easy to understand booklet about SSI.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk
  • Jimmie

    Thank you for your reply so quickly. The VE did give three hypothetical; however, the first two I could not do because of my limitiations. They did bring up one of my former jobs; however, the judge asked him if I could do that job and that is when the VE said I was non-competitive. I was a oil field worker and a CDL driver and those two jobs I could not do. My last job was when I was in college and did telemarketing. That was the last job they mentioned and that is when the VE said I was non0competitive. Thanks for your input

  • Jimmie

    If I need representation… do yt9ou come to Pueblo?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I handle cases across the Colorado front range. However, my office is in Colorado Springs. Check out the “About” and “Contact” tabs if you are interested in more information about my office.

  • Dolfan1368

    I had a hearing today and the judge said he did not need to hear from the vocational expert. He asked her no questions at all and said he didn’t need to hear from the vocational expert and was going to close the hearing. What does this mean?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    It’s hard to say. It sounds ALJ does not feel she needs VE testimony either to approve (or to deny) the case. VE testimony is typically necessary at Step 5 – other work. http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2009/03/how-social-security-reviews-cases-the-5-step-sequential-evaluation-process/

    However, not always. If an individual’s limitations fit within the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, the ALJ can decide a case at step 5 without VE testimony.

    In short, there is not enough information to tell. I would have to have been at the hearing to get a read on the judge to be able to evaluate whether this suggests the judge leaning to approving or denying the case.

  • Morpheus1161

    Is a judge bound by the recommendatioms of a VE? and if upon questioning by a claiments lawyer the VE back tracks and says you can’t perform the job he indicated, which hypothetical will the judge be bound by, if the claiment has strong medical evidence to support case….

  • Waltbme

    Well my case is at the appeals court were my lawyer had me sign more papers for ssdi. He said when the appeals court denies my claim he will refile. Guess that means I’m out of luck at the appeals court. Been 6years since I applied. This is about the stupides thing I’ve heard of taking this long. Our country sends billions of dollars overseas but the American citizen who needs help is just out of luck. Obama said we are the best country in the world. Thats true becausse we give all our money to outsiders and pork for all the idiots in congress. Think they would be a little more considerate of all the disabled workers who spent their life building this suppose to be great country.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    The ALJ can reject VE testimony if it is not “credible.” However, there has to be a reason for that determination. For example: if the testimony is internally inconsistent – one answer does not match up with another, or it the testimony is at odds with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or other sources of information.

    I can’t comment on which hypothetical a judge might accept without having been in the hearing room and reviewing the file.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I am sorry for all the trouble you are having with Social Security. Six year is a long wait.

  • Clarenceevalenegivens

    i had a hearing today and was told that i had made $9.000 one year and $8.000 the next year from doing my taxes. does this count against me?

  • Waltbme

    Well after 6 years I finally got denied from the appeals court. So what is my next step?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Well, it depends.

    While that may seem like a copout answer, it is the only one I can give you (and that is after starting and re-starting this reply several times). Social Security cases are complicated and very fact specific. Whether earnings are problematic depends on the specific circumstances of the case: what is the alleged onset date, are there earnings after that date, was the work done under the table, were there accommodations or subsidies, etc. That’s just for starters.

    There is no way for me to know the impact of these earnings. It depends on what else is going on in your case.

    For general information on how Social Security evaluates cases disability cases, you may want to review the following: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2009/03/how-social-security-reviews-cases-the-5-step-sequential-evaluation-process/

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Presumably you mean that it has taken 6 years from when you applied and not that your case has been pending at the Appeals Council for 6 years. A 6 year wait at the AC level would be quite unusual.

    If an individual wishes to appeal an Appeals Council denial, the next appeal is normally to US District Court. The District Court appeal is quite a bit more complicated than any of the earlier appeal stages. Appealing a case to District Court is, literally, “making a Federal case out of it.” I strongly recommend working with a attorney on a District Court appeal. Note: District Court claims are something of a sub-set of Social Security claims and not every Social Security attorney handles them.

    The Appeals Council decision states an individual’s rights, time limits, appeal options, and discussed the process of appealing an AC denial.

  • The_klown_25

    i have a ? i had a hearing jan.4th 2011 in greensboro nc and my ? is i had 3 hypothetical ?’s asked and the vocational expert listed 3 jobs i could do and the numbers of jobs nationally then my lawyer reminded the judge and vocational expert i have trouble following directions and remembering things and would need constant attention 6 hours out of a 8 hour workday and the vocational then said i wouldnt be able to do no jobs cause of this condition then the vocational expert she was dismissed my ? is does this sound good or bad??? at the end my lawyer said she believes i won.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Both the judge and an individual’s attorney can pose hypotheticals to the vocational expert. It can be difficult (even when you are at the the hearing) to get a feel for which hypotheticals the judge seems to be accepting.

    Since I wasn’t there, I can’t say if the judge is leaning toward accepting your lawyer’s hypotheticals or not.

    If your lawyer said it went well, I am not going to contradict him/her.

    Good luck!

  • Charlene

    I just read this whole blog and all the loaded comments…pretty interesting that I didnt know he could use any hypotheticals to base his judgment..the 1st and 2nd hypotheticals did not include my mental conditions til I brought it out at the end. If the Judge can still deny a case without including mental side-effects from antidepressants – wouldn’t that be an unfair judgment call on his case?

  • Charlene

    I just realized there wasnt 3 hypotheticals…the judge asked to go over past former jobs in which the VE cited 9…after all the limitations were entered the judge asked how many of the jobs I could work and the VE stated 3 at that time I brought up my mental condition and the VE then stated I couldn’t work at all…that’s how i ended..wanted to clarify that to you. Thanks for all the blogs you post – you’re like my idol Attorney on here…hehe…

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hi Charlene. It is not a matter of “ignoring” limitations. It is that limitations have to be based on medically diagnosed impairments and consistent with the signs and findings in the medical records as well as the individual’s activities of daily living. Put another way, presenting limitations in a hypothetical to the VE, does not guarantee that the ALJ will accept those limitations.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Thanks Charlene, I appreciate your kind words. I hope you win your case.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Thanks Charlene, I appreciate your kind words. I hope you win your case.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hi Charlene. It is not a matter of “ignoring” limitations. It is that limitations have to be based on medically diagnosed impairments and consistent with the signs and findings in the medical records as well as the individual’s activities of daily living. Put another way, presenting limitations in a hypothetical to the VE, does not guarantee that the ALJ will accept those limitations.

  • Genebrightwell

    How can a vocational expert have any say on mental disabilities I mean you dont get a VE slip to give to your boss when your sick etc.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Right. However, it is no different than physical limitations. If a VE says an individual is still able to perform the duties of a “call out operator” or “inbound telemarketer” despite needing a sit-stand option, it doesn’t really matter if the individual’s own past experience in these jobs is that their employer would not tolerate that limitations. That is, that a VE says that a particular limitation should not prevent an individual from being able to perform the duties a hypothetical job, does not help an individual find an employer who will tolerate the limitation in the real world.

    However, let’s take a stop back. VEs do not testify at hearings to provide evidence that is contrary to the real world. One of their roles is to temper the often out-of-date evidence in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles with more recent job treatises and personally performed surveys of real-world jobs as they are actually performed. This is one of the VE’s chief roles at a hearing!

    When there is a discrepancy between a claimant’s experience with a job and what the VE testifies to (often as to duties or which limitations would be tolerated in a job), that can be brought up during the cross examination of the VE.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Without having been there, I can’t say what the VE meant.

    However, one issue is whether this was part of the answer to a single hypothetical?

    Or did the VE eliminate the jobs based on additional limitations in a followup question/hypothetical.

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    As noted in the post, WHICH hypothetical the judge uses in the decision is anyone’s guess. Without being at the hearing, I cannot make any kind of informed guess.

    As for how long it may take to get a decision, see http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2008/05/how-long-after-my-social-security-hearing-does-it-take-to-get-a-decision/

    Social Security does not provide transcripts, however claimants and their representatives can get a copy of the recording (typically on disc).

  • Brian Newell

    My VE said i qualified to do two jobs a ticket taker and a tagger whatever that is but then she told the judge that i would be unable to do the jobs because of people interaction and stress so i am a little confused about what she is trying to convey to me and the judge.

  • Brian Newell

    In the follow up question she eliminated those jobs saying that personal interaction with people and stress would keep me from preforming those jobs. The judge ask her what if any jobs i would qualify for and the two that she gave was the two listed above and then he ask her did she think i could do those jobs and her reply was no for the reasons listed above. Also how long on average does it take to get a reply by mail from the judge? And can i request a transcript of the hearing and if so and i get turned down can i use that transcript for future hearings or appeals? Thanks for your reply and advice in advance.

  • JD

    My husband had his ssd appeal hearing only 2 weeks ago. I’ve been reading your replies to questions & everything sounds similar.  I was permitted to go into the hearing with my husband & offer testimony to his case.  My husbands lawyer was a no show. Non-the-less, the hearing seemed to go well. Before entering the hearing room we were given a CD & directed to a room to view all of the medical documentation & doctors letters etc that SS had collected in reference to my husbands case & all seemed to be in order. We were quite surprised by a few of the letters they had received from past & current doctors who treat/treated my husband for his orthopedic conditions, they all were favorable. The Vocational Expert narrowed the jobs available to my husband to 3 that may be appropriate for him.  However, at the end of the hearing the Vocational Expert was asked 2 ‘hypothetical’ questions..first being would my husband be able to perform anyof the 3  jobs with his current limitations, the answer ‘no-none’. The second question being would my husband be able to perform any of the 3 jobs while taking his current medications, the answer ‘no-none’. 

    Throughout the hearing my husband & I both asked questions & I was permitted to add additional information after my husband spoke.  Before leaving the judge told my husband and I that he  found us to be very candid, that he does not see that often. At that point my husband asked him how long before he would have his decision & the judge responded that my husband would be receiving his decision very quickly. 

    ‘Quickly’ this word is of concern, my husband has been fighting for disability since 2004 and had been denied & denied & re-filed, etc…. I am reading about ‘decision letter writers’…this is confusing to me…can you tell me what the average wait time is for an appeal decision? 

  • JD

    My husband had his ssd appeal hearing only 2 weeks ago. I’ve been reading your replies to questions & everything sounds similar.  I was permitted to go into the hearing with my husband & offer testimony to his case.  My husbands lawyer was a no show. Non-the-less, the hearing seemed to go well. Before entering the hearing room we were given a CD & directed to a room to view all of the medical documentation & doctors letters etc that SS had collected in reference to my husbands case & all seemed to be in order. We were quite surprised by a few of the letters they had received from past & current doctors who treat/treated my husband for his orthopedic conditions, they all were favorable. The Vocational Expert narrowed the jobs available to my husband to 3 that may be appropriate for him.  However, at the end of the hearing the Vocational Expert was asked 2 ‘hypothetical’ questions..first being would my husband be able to perform anyof the 3  jobs with his current limitations, the answer ‘no-none’. The second question being would my husband be able to perform any of the 3 jobs while taking his current medications, the answer ‘no-none’. 

    Throughout the hearing my husband & I both asked questions & I was permitted to add additional information after my husband spoke.  Before leaving the judge told my husband and I that he  found us to be very candid, that he does not see that often. At that point my husband asked him how long before he would have his decision & the judge responded that my husband would be receiving his decision very quickly. 

    ‘Quickly’ this word is of concern, my husband has been fighting for disability since 2004 and had been denied & denied & re-filed, etc…. I am reading about ‘decision letter writers’…this is confusing to me…can you tell me what the average wait time is for an appeal decision? 

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    The lawyer didn’t show!!! ??? !!!

    Wow…

    As far as the average time for a decision after a hearing, see http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2008/05/how-long-after-my-social-security-hearing-does-it-take-to-get-a-decision/

    Keep in mind this is based on my experience in Colorado. However, if a judge tells an individual that the decision will be issued “very quickly” the decision may be issued in only a couple of weeks. But, really, who knows. 

    Come back and let us know how long it took and which hearing office heard your case. 

  • Janetdaniw

    I am 49 yr old woman. I first applied on my own in 2001, and of course was turned down. At this point I had yet to be diagnosed but was experiencing chronic widespread pain…daily. I tried to go back to work (retail) and was in and out of work until 2004 when I finally hired an atty. After 18 mos and many many surgeries I was diagnosed with Degenerative Bone Disease. I went to court in April 2005, was granted disability, only to receive a letter 3 wks later from the judge stating because I was collecting unemployment he has “serious questions regarding my credibility”. I explained in the hearing the last company I worked for was kind enough to give me a pink slip, which does not mean I can work. I appealed his decision in August of 2004, and it was sent to Va. I won the appeal in Virginia and they kicked it back to Ct. My hearing is Aug 24th with the SAME judge and today my lawyer informs me the state hired a “Vocational Expert” so she will be doing the same. I have not worked in 7 yrs. I have no health ins and the pain is ridiculous. Is this judge biased or am I paranoid?

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Can’t say if the judge is biased. The judge said he had “serious concerns” and those probably remain — I’m guessing of course. It sounds like your attorney is gearing up for a fight, which is good. Your attorney probably already knows about the two memos issued to judges on unemployment issues but just in case, here you are: http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2009/03/how-do-unemployment-benefits-affect-a-social-security-disability-claim/

  • anointed

    i had my appeal and the judge asked the VE about my work history she said medium she brought up to jobs and said how many there was nationwide and locally then the judge said with missing work 2 to 3 time a week will there be any work the ve said no work the he said with concentration only 80 percent of the time will there be work the ve said no work could i possibly win my case

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. 

  • Rangers

    I had my 1st hearing today, VE said there were no jobs for me with my impairments, can I still be denied benefits?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A4IRRGA4DGRZN5BOCZZMWW67DQ WISS

    I know the VE at my ALJ hearing today was a ‘vocational psychologist’ and is even the professor emeritus of the vocational counseling dept at the local university. Seems to be the judge’s pick for any SSDI claim regarding psych conditions, as he has BG in psychology. There are many various types of VEs around, some specialize in certain types of cases as they can better understand the limitations certain conditions may present. Though I am glad my ALJ hearing didn’t make any use of the VE, though this could be for better or worse. Just goes to show that the VE is actually somewhat a neutral party. Only time will tell if the ALJ not utilizing the VE was good or bad…. I hope the former….

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    I hope so too. In a situation like that raises the issue of which hat the VE is wearing while testifying. A VE is sworn in and accepted as an expert on vocational issues. If that same VE then begins to testify on psychological issues, that can become a problem. It could also really help if the VE can bring in their knowledge of the effect of different conditions. 

    I know you said the ALJ did not use the VE. However, you describe an interesting situation.
    Good luck on your case!

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hi Jeff,

    The evidence sounds good. However, you need to understand that a case is not one thing. It is *all* the evidence that Social Security considers. Consider a race car. It is not just the engine, or the wheels, or the transmission, or any of several hundred parts. It all of them, how they are put together, plus the track the care will racing on, and the race day conditions. Asking for your chances is like saying you have a great engine and asking if you can win a race with it. Possibly, but I don’t even know if you have wheels.

    The Social Security file is often between 200 – 800 pages. Social Security uses all that information to review your case. A lawyer reviews all that information to look for what’s good and what can blow up in your face. It is all important.

    Asking for your chances based on a summary is saying, “I’m going to draw you a picture of a house, do you think it will survive a hurricane?” Without the architectural plans, materials list, building methods and location, I have no idea.

    It certainly sounds like you have a case. But, will you win? I can’t tell you. The devil is the details and lawyers with work Social Security applicants for up to 18 months because of that very reason.

  • Pingback: How to apply for–and win–Social Security disability benefits « LegallyBlog® by Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP

  • Dale Hurst

    My hearing was Oct 4, 2011 and the ALJ Gerard Rickert ended it by saying he was going to consult a Rheumatologist himself. I am in Central IL and he consulted with a Dr from Branson, MO? She acknowledged all my conditions but said she thinks I can work, this is after NOT examining me. This is in direct conflict with the RFC my Dr completed. I have seen this Dr every month or more since Jan 2011. He prescribes me 40mg of Hydrocodone SR X8 hours and Hydrocodone 10/325 x4 hours, and I am taking 20mg of Prednisone every other day, the Judge failed to include this in the hypothetical presented to the VE. There were several issues I will feel compelled to examine closer unless this ALJ provides a fully favorable decision soon.
     I was not happy to get a call from my attorney the day before my hearing asking me to go by my treating Drs office and get my records on the way to my hearing as he did not have them. I signed consent to release forms in plenty of time, not only was this stressful on me but the records were not complete and this also meant the ALJ had not seen the treatment records of the same Dr who completed my RFC that clearly indicates I can not work. Anyhow it was acknowledged by the Judge and my attorney there was an issue with my records but we proceeded. The ALJ mentioned that I had went through a 3 day detox from oxycontin and that I had also been hospitalized for an overdose. I tried to make it clear that I detoxed off the oxycontin because I did not like it and wanted off it. The pain center that was treating me released me when I refused to take the oxy. The overdose was because my family Dr gave me Ativan knowing I was on 60mg of oxycontin x12 hours. The Drs at the ER said I should not have been mixing those drugs, I didn’t know and my family Dr shrugged it off when I told him I almost died from it. I mention this because it seems the ALJ thinks I have a drug problem.
     The ALJ also asked me if I read throughout the day and I said yes, he asked what and I told him I read my Bible. He sounded condescending when he somewhat sneered back “is that all you read”? I said no, I read other inspirational books. He also asked me about my sleep schedule and after telling him I am usually up by 6am he asked when I went to bed and I responded before midnight, he said “Why”? in a tone and I told him because I still have a schedule even though I am disabled.
     There were a couple other issues but we wrapped it up by the ALJ saying if he had seen the records in front of him before he would have had a Medical expert instead of Vocational and he was going to consult a medical expert as mentioned above. The ALJ forwarded the form completed by the out of state Dr who has never seen me and a letter to my attorney asking if he wanted to dispute it or enter more evidence on my part. My attorney responded by saying the out of state Drs opinion was not accurate, my conditions mainly the Rheumatoid Arthritis was not being controlled by drugs and that he can not disregard my treating Drs opinion expressed in my RFC report. He said unless the ALJ  was prepared to issue a Fully Favorable decision then we are requesting a supplemental hearing. If for some reason this ALJ has the wrong opinion of me and unfairly bases his decision on that I will be pursuing it all the way. The ALJ seems to think I am a drug addicted malingerer and that is far from the truth. I fought and struggled for years trying to NOT take pain meds and aside from a solid work history I am a family man married over 20 years and 4 kids. My wife has been a dedicated Police Dispatcher for over 16 years in Decatur, IL. I will be taking her as a witness if I have a supplemental hearing, she missed my 1st hearing because she had to work. I think I will even take her latest employee evaluation just to add a little more credibility for the ALJ’s sake.
     He has no basis to disregard my Dr’s opinion over some one who is out of state and never seen me. I hope and pray he does the right thing although I put it in God’s hands long ago.
     Last thing I will point out is I was very impressed by my attorney telling the ALJ in this letter that it’s not fair he is delaying this due to the overwhelming evidence on my part and looking harder for a reason to deny me.
     49 year old male with Rheumatoid Arthritis, C2 and C3 ruptured discs in neck, degenerative disc disease, severe sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, fybermyalgia, both elbows broke and deformed, depression, anxiety, deformed bones in right foot, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe acid reflux, and finally COPD.
     

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Hi Dale. It sounds like you have a good case and a good lawyer fighting for you. I hope it works out.

  • Gmhonaker

    yes, I definitely had some strange questions asked of me.  “How much do you weigh?”  for example was one.  I believe I made it to the 4th and 5th steps.  Both the medical and vocational expert testified.  When the vocational expert testified,  she was asked all the hypothetical questions, every answer was NO that I could not work and I could not adapt to other work.  She turned when it was all over and gave me a big smile.  Hearing was by teleconference so the judge could not see her face.  The Judge wished me good luck and inidicated that she hoped things would get better for me.  Based on this information, What are my chances of being approved?

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    Based on your description, it sounds good. However …. http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2011/11/i-have-can-i-win-my-social-security-disability-case/ 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaybrown1234 Jeanette Roundtree

    I just had a hearing two days ago the judge was rough ask alot of questions about my past and mental health like manic bypolior, deppression, PDSD, she has all records expect for this year so she want medical records in two weeks then makes desision also the expert no work with light duty and hard duty what you think.

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    Depending on an individual’s age and past work, not being able to do light work may not be enough.

    SSA cases are very fact specific. The rules that apply depend on age, education, past work and medically supportable limitations. It’s hard to say what may happen with a sliver of information. If you had a representative at the hearing, what were his/her thoughts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaybrown1234 Jeanette Roundtree

    my lawyer said too me after my hearing it was hard to read the judge and she was rough and had no remorse she wants more medcial records for this year then will make a desicson I was on ssi as a child do for learning disabilty and mentle health . she brought up my pass history about drug use I have five sobrity and crimnial history as well why iam not sure my doctor put in paper i cant work at all do too deppression , PDSD, Bypolor , Anger outburst,

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaybrown1234 Jeanette Roundtree

    I am 31yrs old women and type of pass work was CNA nurse aid , warehouse work pressing shirts , packing recivng at another job, twice at same job folding laundry and house keeping fired from all jobs do to depression and no call no show I last I work was in 2008 burgerking grilling burgers I was not fast enough and boss yelling at me got stress out and yelled back was fired. I forget things alot my brian hammarge when born I was in 1982.I applied for ssi in 2008 and 2011 we ask the judge to consider 2008 for backpay if granted she said she see that in paper work I did not know how to apply so I redid my application in 2011. then the expert from what I remebered she said all the jobs I had and did in past and said no jobs at the end my husband seen her leave the court room and said it was good hearing but the judge want more mentle health records and proof iam still going for treatment then will make her desicion she had no remorse really and no clues she was tough.

  • Jean Marie Davis

    My husband has been trying for almost for four years to get his social security disability he first went out on a Bi-polar Disorder with underline rage and in 2011 they found out that he has a heart problem and he had open heart surecy in January of 2012 and also had to have a pacemaker and they are telling that he can find a job as a dishwasher a packer and washing trucks and we live in the state of Pennsylvania

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    It sounds like your husband had a number of disabling conditions. However, after 4 years, Social Security clearly has a problem with his claim. Have you been working with a disability attorney to figure out why he keeps getting denied and try to address it?

  • molina

    hi. please help me understand. the ve at my hearing was given two intial questions regarding my mental limits. she said I could be a packer or assembler. but after the judge asked about five questions from my physical rfc those jobs were ruled out. my original file did not even have a rfc and ssa used their people to assess me saying I could do medium work. but now that I have a doctor’s rfc the judge referred to it. I looked at my file and saw that the dds used one apt date out of many to make his decision. and it happened to be the one where I was feeling a little better. but this was put as the physical concluding reason. now with an actual rfc does that make it better. my doc has been seeing me for three years and I have three other docs also.

  • Jean Marie Davis

    yes we have been working with a disability attorney and they just turn him down again and his heart doctor has not even talk him about going back to work and now there telling him that he can do what they call light work and what companies have what they call light work I am just getting so tired of the whole thing what is going to take him dropping dead or us losing a place to live because we can’t afford to pay for rent and for lights or even basic cable or even a phone

  • Mike D

    May 6th 2014 I had my hearing w/ an att. First Il start with why I am filing for Social Security disability, I have spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, osteochondritis, a grade one and two spine and overall bone disease which is for the majority all juvenile and long term depression and I am 41 years old.. My hearing was yesterday with my attorney the vocational expert said there is absolutely no job in any market that I could do.. Which my attorney worked very hard to make clear to the judge by asking the VE three times to explain what he meant by there is no job in any market I could do.. Obviously I know that is a good thing but could I still be denied disability?? I also on the advice of the psychologist the state sent me two contacted my congressman and he said he would help by doing whatever it is they do. It was Congressman Aaron Schock I contacted and he said he would be happy to help after I sent the hipa form to him, which I did..

  • Mike D

    My original file date was October 2012 which seems like a long time ago but the next couple of weeks will be excruciatingly looong!!

  • lynn

    At my hearing the vocational expert said I couldn’t do any past work then the judge asked a hypothetical question about me being able to perform other new jobs the vocational expeet he said I could perform some work but when my attorney crossed examined the VE with a hypothetical question including my medical conditions the Vocational expert said there are no jobs that I can perform so basically there were two different answers

  • marceldeon

    ttt

  • marceldeon

    im 40 yrs old i have documented transverse myelitis (similar to MS) went to hearing in front of the ALJ it lasted 15 minutes, the judge asked the VE 2 hypotheticals about could i perform work, the VE said no jobs to both questions..what are my chances for approval

  • Joe Pinter

    I would say if you get a answer within 90 days? you will be approved

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    Sometimes a judge short-cuts a case because it is clear it should be approved. There are limited questions of the claimant (the applicant) and the judge goes almost immediately to ask the VE one or two questions that are going to eliminate all work. When that happens, it is usually a very good sign. However, everything depends on each case’s individual circumstances.

  • Savvy

    I have my ODAR hearing on 09/16/2014. My lawyer told me from the beginning I had a strong case. I was 51 at the time I stopped working and have both physical and mental disorders that affect my ability to work. They include but a not limited to: Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD, COPD, Arthritis, Carpal & Cubital Tunnel. I had both sendartary and physical jobs in the past 15 years and have an accounting degree. My lawyer stated that while my physical conditions my qualify me for benefits the metal by far was the strongest part of my case. A VE was at the hearing but the ALJ didn’t ask her a single question. The ALJ’s questions to me seemed to basically confirm what I had stated in my questionnaires and my medical records. I have a very consistent medical history for all the disabilities I listed. This ALJ has a record of only 29% approvals compared to
    around 49% for most of the others in this area. My lawyer stated that the fact that she didn’t ask the VE one question was a good sign and that he way 95% sure I was going to be approved. He only practices disability law and has a good reputation in the area but I’m still worried. I’d just like to get others opinions regarding the way the hearing went.

  • Savvy

    It’s been a while since I posted this. Does anyone have any input or answer to my question?

  • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    From what you describe, it sounds good. The judge’s low approval percentage is a potential issue, but the judge’s limited questions and no questions asked of the VE sound good.

    However, keep in mind that the best person to give you an appraisal of how things look is the person was there with you. Your lawyer knows the file and was there for the hearing. Anyone else is just Monday morning quarter-backing (without having even seen the game).

    Good luck Savvy!