Testimony From a Social Security Disability Vocational Expert

ALJs usually do not ask any Vocational Experts questions about vocational adjustment or erosion of the occupational base. The questions ALJs usually ask are:

1. What are the skill and exertional levels of the claimant’s past job as the claimant actually performed it?

2. What are the skill and exertional levels of the claimant’s past job as generally required by employers throughout the country?

3. Assuming that the claimant is capable of [describe hypothetical RFC findings, etc.], is the claimant capable of returning to past relevant work?

4. [Where the issue of transferability of skills is critical:] If the claimant has the following residual functional capacity: [insert RFC], and the claimant is incapable of performing his skilled (or semi-skilled) past relevant work, does the claimant have any acquired skills that are transferable to some other skilled or semi-skilled work?

If yes,

  • list the transferable skills;
  • identify the jobs to which these skills transfer; and
  • state the number of these jobs in the local and national economy.

5. [Where the Medical-Vocational Guidelines do not direct a conclusion of whether the claimant is or is not disabled:] Assuming that the claimant is unable to perform the prior work of [insert description of PRW], that the claimant has no transferable work skills, that the claimant’s educational level is [insert educational level], and that the claimant’s residual functional capacity is [insert RFC], is the claimant capable of performing other work?

If yes,

  • identify the jobs; and
  • state the number of these jobs in the local and national economy.

Vocational experts “should give full and complete answers to the questions posed by the ALJ and should not volunteer information.” They are expected to testify “only on vocational issues and only on those vocational issues which are relevant to the requirements of the statute, regulations and rulings.”

A VE is not supposed to:

  • Provide his or her own evaluation of the medical evidence.
  • State whether you are a proper candidate for vocational rehabilitation.
  • State whether you can compete with unimpaired individuals for available employment.
  • State whether job vacancies exist or whether you would be hired for existing jobs.
  • State whether you can perform in a specific occupation with the same degree of efficiency or productivity as individuals with less than severe or no impairments.
  • State whether you are or are not disabled.

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