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

Who is this vocational expert?

Why are they coming to your hearing?

These are important questions. 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. More importantly, chances are good that an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability law will know the vocational expert.  Additionally, your attorney will also know how to cross-examine the vocational expert.


The vocational expert is an expert witness. Typically, the disability judge calls a vocational expert to testify. The Judge calls the expert to come to your hearing to talk about jobs. Vocational Experts or VE’s have training in job placement. They also understand the numbers and types of jobs that exist in the nation. They are at the hearing in order to answer questions about hypothetical people in the job force.

Once the Judge finishes asking you questions about your disability, 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 what you can physically and mentally do throughout an 8 hour work day.  Therefore, your answers to the questions at the hearing are very important. As is the medical records you submit.

The Judge combines your hearing testimony and the symptoms from your medical records to determine how your disability impacts you on the job. At the end of your hearing, the Judge will ask the vocational expert hypothetical questions. Likewise, your attorney will ask hypothetical questions. Your attorney can also cross-examine the vocational expert. Often it is vocational expert testimony that determines whether you win or lose your disability benefits.

 vocational expert witness


The Judge will ask hypothetical questions to the VE about whether or not a person with your disabilities can work. Typically, the Judge will use three to four hypotheticals. These questions can include many different symptoms from your disabilities.

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 residual functional capacity or RFC.  Learn more here about your residual functional capacity here.

Once the Judge is done asking questions, your attorney has the right to cross-examine the VE. For claimant’s 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 the claimant. 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 a claimant’s work skills can be used in other work and the specific occupations in which they can be used. A VE may also testify as to the effects of solely nonexertional impairments on the range of work a person can do. Likewise, the VE can testify about the erosion of  the occupational base caused by nonexertional limitations, SSR 96-9p, SSR 85-15 and SSR 83-12.


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

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 definition states that frequent use of the hands is necessary. If a VE’s testimony is not accurate, then what happens?

First, your attorney needs to be aware of the DOT job definitions. Also, your lawyer needs to understand the skills and education needed to perform certain jobs. In addition, your representative will need to understand the GRID Rules and if they apply to you. Learn more about the GRID Rules here. Your lawyer should challenge and cross-examine the VE.

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 such conflicts are evident, the expert should be asked 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. The majority of cases turn on the VE’s testimony at the hearing. If you are not capable of cross-examining the VE, you will not win. 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 part of the hypothetical to the VE.

Also, the attorney who has experience is familiar with the jobs in the national economy. If the attorney has experience, then they also know what jobs the VE is likely to say that you can do. 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 vocational expert to your hearing.


You are seeking the best law firm to represent you in your disability case. You need an advocate you can trust. If you want to learn more about the representatives at Cannon Disability Law, then read our About Us page. There you will find more information about each of our representatives.

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

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

Additionally, Brett Bunkall has experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. He is a disability expert. Also, he is licensed to practice law by the Idaho State Bar Association. Find out more about disability benefits in Idaho here. Similarly, all of our advocates are disability law experts. You can trust us to help you win disability benefits if you are not able to work.


At Cannon Disability Law, we are experts in cross-examining the vocational expert. Our lawyers and representatives have special training to help us understand how to cross-examine vocational experts. We have been trained to know where the VE gets her answers. This helps us question the VE about whether or not you can work.

Our job is to help you win your Social Security Disability benefits. Since most cases turn on the VE’s testimony, you need a lawyer on your side in the courtroom. Contact us through this website. Or, give us a call at 801-322-2121.

We can help you apply for disability 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 upfront charge for you to hire us. Most importantly, 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 consultation. Let us answer your questions. We know winning disability benefits can be a long journey. Therefore, you need the best disability legal team to help you. Cannon Disability Law is that legal team.

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