A lot of claimants and even representatives going through Social Security Disability appeals are slightly terrified of vocational experts. There’s good reason to feel this way. After all, their testimony can torpedo a claim by making it seem like there are plenty of jobs available and no reason why work can’t be found.
Experienced disability lawyers, though, know that there are a number of ways to poke holes in VE testimony and make sure that they are the ones being put on the defensive.
Ways to Poke Holes in VE Testimony
Even if testimony from a vocational expert makes it seem like a claimant could easily do a number of readily available jobs, don’t lose hope. There are several ways to attack this testimony – and always remember, at step five of the decision process, the Commissioner still has to show evidence of reliable job information.
- Use Null Hypothesis – Claimant reps should always use this method to cross-examine VEs. It asks them to assume that no jobs or occupations exist and provide evidence to the contrary. Basically, they’re saying a claimant can do plenty of jobs, so you’re asking them to detail which jobs and prove that they’re available.
- Know Pertinent SSRs – Vocational experts might say that there are plenty of jobs available, but are they applying the appropriate rulings to that determination? Various SSRs detail things like the transferability of work skills (SSR 82-41), how a claimant’s ability to do other work should be determined (SSRs 83-10, 83-14, 85-15, and 96-9p), and how VE evidence can be used in disability decisions (SSR 00-4p).
- Speak the Same Language – Often, unspecific terms such as “limited” will be used in reference to a claimant’s ability to do certain kinds of tasks. How limited? Ask for “frequency descriptors” such as:
- Occasional (up to a third)
- Frequent (one-third to two-thirds)
- No limitation
The goal is to get the vocational expert to be as specific as possible and show that their opinion isn’t consistent with the amount and type of work a claimant’s disability actually allows them to perform.
If your Social Security Disability attorney isn’t using these types of tactics to help your case, it might be time to find a better one. The only way to ensure that you’re getting the best representation is to understand as much as you can about Social Security Disability by downloading our free eBook and regularly checking in with the latest news on this blog.