When a Vocational Expert Testifies at Hearing

From Dave Traver’s excellent and informative blog:
It is not unusual for a vocational expert (VE) to testify a thousand times or more at disability hearings at the Social Security Administration. It is also not unusual to find attorneys who have spent their entire careers at those hearings without asking a single VE for the exact basis and methodology that would support or falsify the VE’s testimony. After all of those years and all of those hearings, such an attorney has no way of knowing if the VEs gave honest and accurate answers, or if the testimony was made up out of whole cloth.

The Social Security Administration uses a sequential evaluation process to evaluate disability claims. At step five of the sequential evaluation process, the SSA often uses vocational experts. When the vocational expert (VE) gets to the part of the testimony about specific jobs and especially numbers of jobs at your disability hearing (to prove you or your client not disabled), the VE may start making everything up. This is a sad fact, given that in FY 1999, government payments to VEs totaled $21.6 million to 1,337 VEs.

I suggest you insist on understanding how the VE knows what the VE says he or she knows. Don’t settle for the idea that the allegation of 25-years experience gives the VE an intuitive grasp that there are 12,432 unskilled, one-armed, illiterate, sedentary inspectors in your part of the woods, or nationally. When the VE gives the based upon my experience answer, the VE should be able to back answer up with explanations that support the testimony. In the absence of that foundation, the testimony is simply ipse dixit.

So, when the VE states that her experience tells her x about occupation y, a reasonable line of questioning would be to assume that the testimony is unproven and lacks a foundation. See entire article here.