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What does a vocational expert do in a SSD case?

In the legal system, everyone has their own role to play. Each piece of evidence in a case, including testimony from different witnesses, all goes together to form one whole puzzle.

Recently, this blog discussed the different kinds of evidence that may be presented at a hearing when a Georgia resident is attempting to obtain Social Security disability benefits for injuries. While medical evidence about a person's inability to work is vital to the case, another important aspect may be testimony from a vocational expert.

Vocational experts, as the name implies, provide expert opinion testimony about vocational issues. The person typically has experience with industrial and occupational trends, as well as the conditions in the local labor market.

The expert's testimony may include a discussion about whether the claimant can perform his or her previous work, as well as other work. Accordingly, the vocational expert may be called to testify about the skill level and demands of certain occupations and the characteristics of different work settings. The expert might also provide testimony relating to the existence of jobs within certain occupations, and what skills may transfer between one job and another.

The expert is also frequently called on to answer hypothetical questions about a person's ability to perform certain kinds of work. Accordingly, the expert is not commenting on medical issues, but rather on hypothetical scenarios based on the functional limitations the administrative law judge provides.

Ultimately, the vocational expert's testimony is just one piece of the overall puzzle, but it can be an important piece to consider. The testimony may bear on whether the individual is disabled, such that benefits can be awarded under the agency's procedures.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Becoming a vocational expert," accessed on April 23, 2016

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