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Frequently Asked Questions

Vocational Services  |  Life Care Planning Services?

Below we list our most frequently asked questions about vocational assessment.

Why use a Vocational Expert?

Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) use vocational experts in cases where they must determine whether a claimant is able to perform his or her previous job or other work.

A vocational expert (VE) is knowledgeable about the current labor market, job availability, and skills needed to perform specific jobs. Before a scheduled hearing, a vocational expert will review any exhibits provided and then give testimony in person at the hearing. Sometimes a VE will testify by telephone or video teleconference or be asked to provide opinions by responding to written questions called interrogatories. The testimony of a vocational expert can be very important because their opinion about the claimant’s ability to work may affect the outcome of the hearing and determine whether a claim is denied.

What does the Social Security Administration expects a vocational expert to have knowledge of?

The Social Security Administration expects a vocational expert to have knowledge of:

  •   Skill levels and physical and mental demands of occupations

  •   Characteristics of various work settings

  •   The existence and incidence of jobs within occupations

  •   Transferrable skills analysis and SSA regulatory requirements for transferability of work skills

  •   Industrial and occupational trends and local labor market conditions

  •   How the SSA determines whether a claimant is disabled


What type of questions are asked at an appeal hearing that a Vocational Expert be able to answer?

During an appeal hearing, the judge and the claimant’s attorney will ask the claimant questions about their disability and their work history.

The ALJ will then ask the vocational expert to give his or her opinion about jobs the claimant is able to perform given their limitations. The vocational expert uses the claimant’s testimony about past work experiences to classify physical requirements and skill levels of each prior job the claimant has held and to identify skills which might be transferred to other jobs. If the claimant is not able to work in a previous occupation, the VE considers the skills the claimant has which may enable them to perform different work. It is important for the claimant to be specific when testifying about previous occupations so that the vocational expert does not attribute skills to the claimant they do not have.

What is Past Relevant work and why is it important?

A VE can only consider past relevant work (PRW) that a claimant performed in assessing a claimant’s job skills.

The following criteria is used to determine if work is PRW:

  •   whether claimant performed the job long enough to learn it

  •   whether claimant performed the job in the last 15 years, and

  •   whether claimant performed the job at the substantial gainful activity level for the year worked ($1,170 in 2017).

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