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You received your hearing notice and it says there is a vocational expert (VE) coming to your hearing.

Who is this vocational expert?

Why are they coming to your hearing?

Are they an expert who is for you or against you?

These are important questions. The VE is coming to your hearing to provide testimony regarding your work history. They are also going to testify about any transferable skills you may have that could use in other types of employment, despite your medical conditions.

Hopefully, you are starting to see how important it is to hire an attorney with experience to represent you at your hearing. It is your attorney who can answer these questions. Chances are good that an attorney who is an expert in Social Security law will know the VE. Additionally, your attorney will also know how to question the vocational expert at your hearing and what questions you will need to answer at your hearing.


The VE is an expert witness. Typically, the Social Security Judge calls a VE to testify. The Judge calls the expert to come to your hearing to talk about jobs.  Those jobs include your past jobs and any jobs the judge thinks you can do. You will know that a VE is going to testify because your hearing notice will contain their information. VEs have training in job placement. They also understand the numbers and types of jobs that exist in the nation. They are also at the hearing to answer questions about jobs in the national economy.

Once the Judge finishes asking you questions about your medical conditions, she will decide what you are capable of doing during an 8 hour work day. The SSA calls this your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the definition of what you can physically and mentally do during an 8 hour work day.  Therefore, your answers to the questions at the hearing are very important. As is the medical records you submit. Your medical records need to support your testimony.

The Judge combines your hearing testimony and the symptoms from your medical records to determine how your medical conditions impact you on the job. At the end of your hearing, the Judge will ask the VE questions. Likewise, your attorney will ask questions. Your attorney can also question the VE. Often it is VE testimony that determines whether you win or lose your SSDI and SSI benefits.

 vocational expert witness


The Judge will ask questions to the VE about whether or not a person with your medical conditions can work. Typically, the Judge will use three to four questions that include different symptoms from your medical issues.

For example, the Judge may ask if a person cannot concentrate on the job, could they work. Or, the Judge may ask what kind of work would be available to a person who cannot lift more than 20 pounds. The Judge’s questions will include your RFC. Learn more about your residual functional capacity.

Once the Judge is done asking questions, your attorney has the right to question the VE. For those who do not hire an attorney, they are left to try to ask the VE questions on their own. Obviously, most people do not know what questions to ask because they have never been to a hearing. Nor do they have the training they need in order to understand what questions to ask.

Vocational experts testify about what kinds of jobs are available to you. However, they also testify as to the number of jobs that exist in the national economy. For example, a VE may testify as to whether your work skills can be used in other work. They will also testify about the specific occupations that use your skills.

You can read more information about VE testimony in the Social Security Rulings:  SSR 96-9p, SSR 85-15 and SSR 83-12.


The VE will also, if the judge or your attorney asks, testify about whether or not you have skills from your past work that transfer to other jobs. Transferable skills are skills that can be applied to new and different jobs. These skills are usually learned through education, training, or work experience. Some examples of transferable skills include:

  1. Communication: The ability to convey information clearly, both orally and in writing.
  2. Problem solving: The ability to identify, analyze, and solve problems using critical thinking and creative  techniques.
  3. Leadership: The ability to inspire others and make decisions.
  4. Time management: The ability to do tasks in order, meet time lines, and manage many projects at once.
  5. Technical skills: The ability to use various computer programs, operate machines, or perform other tasks.
  6. Interpersonal skills: The ability to work with others, build relationships, and work with others on projects.

Transferable skills are important because they make it possible for you to perform a job other than your past work. At your Social Security hearing, the judge wants to know if you can go out into the national economy and find a new job with the skills that you have. During your SSD hearing, the VE will consider your skills when talking about your ability to perform other work. Learn more information about job skills.


The VE is also at the hearing to testify about whether or not there are a “significant number” of jobs available to you in the national economy. Unfortunately, there is no set number of jobs that show a job is not available in the national economy. Case law states that the idea of a “significant number” of jobs depends on several factors, including your specific limitations, skills, and work history.

During an SSD hearing, the VE will consider your physical and mental limits, along with your work history and skills, to identify other jobs that you may be capable of doing. The VE will then give testimony regarding the number of such jobs that exist in the national economy.

If the VE testifies that there are only a small number of jobs available in the national economy that you can perform, then this may support a finding that you should be paid benefits. However, if the VE says that there are a significant number of jobs that you can perform, this may support a finding that you will not get benefits.

It’s important to note that the ultimate decision regarding your benefits rests with the Judge. The judge should consider all of the evidence before making a decision.


The Judge is going to read your medical records and define your RFC. Your RFC is what the Judge thinks you can physically do in an 8 hour day. The Judge defines your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift. Likewise, the Judge will include your ability to carry, pull, and push. Find out how the SSA defines work.

The Judge will also determine if you have mental issues, such as trouble learning new tasks. Additionally, the Judge will look at whether your mental condition impairs your ability to get along with other workers, your boss, or customers.

It will help you if your doctor also submits an RFC form. An RFC form can be about your physical limits and also about mental limits. The main thing to keep in mind is that the medical evidence must support the opinion of your doctor about your RFC. If the RFC form is different from the progress notes, then the SSA judge will refuse to give weight to the medical opinion of your doctor.

The questions to the VE from the SSA judge are based on your RFC. That is why you must see a doctor and get RFC support from your doctor. The SSA judge builds questions from the medical record for the VE. The Judge’s findings must be based on the medical record and VE testimony. If not, then the decision is not based on substantial evidence.


Vocational Expert’s base their testimony upon their experience and government publications. Specifically, the VE in SSD cases must use the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) when they testify. The DOT is a government book that defines jobs. Unfortunately, the DOT has not been updated in a number of years. This requires VEs to also use other types of job resources and their own experience in placing people in jobs.

There are times that VE testimony is not correct. For example, a VE may testify that certain jobs require only occasional use of the hands, but in reality the job might require constant use of the hands. If a VE’s testimony is not correct, then what happens?

First, your attorney needs to be aware of the jobs in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Also, your lawyer needs to understand the skills and education needed to perform certain jobs. In addition, your attorney will need to understand the GRID Rules and if they apply to you. Learn more about the GRID Rules and winning SSD benefits. Your lawyer should challenge the VE’s testimony and also use the VE’s testimony to win your case.

But, in the end, it is the ALJ who must resolve conflicts in the evidence. This includes conflicts in opinion evidence from a VE and job information contained in the DOT. When conflicts are evident, the expert will need to explain the basis for her opinion and the reason it differs with the DOT.


Unfortunately, if you do not hire an attorney to help you, you will probably lose your case. Most cases turn on the Vocational Expert’s hearing testimony. If you are not capable of questioning the VE, then you will not win benefits. Because, the judge relies on the VE’s testimony. So, you need to be able to prove, using VE testimony, that you cannot work. An attorney can make sure that all of your symptoms are taken into account in the VE’s testimony.

Additionally, the VE will testify about your past work. The VE will define your past jobs and testify about any skills that you have from your past work. Next, the VE will testify about whether those skills transfer to other jobs. It is possible for the VE to make mistakes in this part of their testimony. Your lawyer can object to testimony that doesn’t square with the record. Also, your lawyer can help you testify about your past jobs.

Also, your attorney should be familiar with the jobs in the national economy. If the attorney has experience dealing with the SSA, then they also know what jobs the VE is likely to testify about. This part of the hearing is difficult. Trying to do it yourself will not work. If nothing else, you should hire an attorney to represent you if the Judge has called a VE to your hearing.


You are seeking the best law firm to represent you in your SSD case. You need a law firm you can trust. If you want to learn more about the lawyers and staff at our law firm, then read our About Us page. There you will find more information about each of us.

For example, Andria Summers can help you with your Medicare plan. Likewise, she has also won thousands of SSD cases. Ms. Summers is an expert in understanding your medical issues.

Dianna Cannon also has many years of experience helping her clients win benefits in court. She has been an attorney for thirty years. During that time, she has won thousands of hearings. Ms. Cannon also has licenses in a number of states. For example, she has law licenses in California, Utah, and Washington State.

Additionally, Brett Bunkall has experience helping people obtain their benefits. Also, he has a license to practice law from the Idaho State Bar Association.


As SSD lawyers, the law we practice is federal law. Federal law is the same throughout the country. Therefore, we can represent you wherever you live. We represent clients in many states, including Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and California. Find out more about:

Also, find answers to your questions about the wait time for the SSA’s decision. We offer a “no win, no fee” payment policy. This means that you will only pay an attorney fee if we win your case. Learn more information about attorney fees. Everyone on our legal team are Social Security law experts. You can trust us to help you win benefits if you are not able to work.


At our SSD law firm, we are experts in questioning the VE. Our lawyers have special training to help us understand how to question VE. This helps us question the VE about whether or not you can work.

Our job is to help you win your Social Security benefits. Since most cases turn on the VE’s testimony, you need a lawyer on your side in the court room. Contact us through this website. Or, give us a call today.

We can help you apply for SSDI and SSI benefits. Also, we can appeal a denial from the SSA and win your case in court. Hiring us does not cost you any money up front. In fact, there is no charge for you to hire us. We are only paid an attorney fee when we win your case. If we do not win your case, there is no attorney fee for you to pay.

Call us today for your free review of your case. Let us answer your questions. We know winning SSDI and SSI benefits can be a long journey. Therefore, you need the best legal team to help you. We are that legal team. Hire us to question the vocational expert, so that you can win your benefits.

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