Vocational Expert Testimony Influences SSDI Benefits
In Florida, and elsewhere, when you submit a claim for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely to deny the claim. In fact, statistics on disability claim denials and awards — as reported by the SSA — indicate that disability claim denials averaged around 53 percent over the ten-year period between 2001 and 2010.
So, what happens after that?
In the event that you have your original SSDI claim denied, you may request reconsideration, at which point a new decision will be made regarding your SSDI claim. It’s important to note that this reconsideration decision will be made by an individual who was not involved in the first denial.
If the second decision-maker within the SSA also denies your disability benefits claim, then you will have a right to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will review the evidence — including personal and expert testimony — and will make a decision that does not defer to those prior SSA denial of benefits decisions.
During the hearing, the ALJ may ask a vocational expert to testify as to your ability to work and find alternative employment. The testimony of the vocational expert can have a significant impact on your ability to receive SSDI benefits, as your receipt of SSDI benefits is dependent on your ability to clearly demonstrate that you are “disabled” as per the SSA definition — stated simply, incapable of working in a pre-existing or alternative position due to the severity of your condition.
The Role and Impact of a Vocational Expert
Vocational experts are brought in to give their opinion — to testify — as to your ability to perform the responsibilities of various jobs given the condition at-issue and your work history, training, age, skillset, and other factors. The answers given by the vocational expert during questioning (by the ALJ and by your attorney) will to a significant extent affect the disability determination.
For example, if you are a manual laborer, but the vocational expert testifies that there are office positions available to you (perhaps as a remote supervisor for a construction site or other manual labor site), then you may not be deemed “disabled” per the SSA definition, as you can reasonably work in some other occupation.
Challenging the Testimony of the Vocational Expert
If the vocational expert gives testimony that is in direct contention with your interest in securing SSDI benefits, you may be able to undermine that testimony by demonstrating that you do not have the requisite, transferable skillset necessary to perform the job that is being presented as a reasonable alternative.
Suppose, for example, that a vocational expert believes that you can perform an office job where you file documentation and perform some basic data entry tasks. Based on your previous qualifications, however, you do not have the requisite computer skills to adequately perform the job duties required. Further, it may be the case that the physical requirements are more stringent than the vocational expert has let on — perhaps the job requires that you move around the office to manually hand-off paperwork, which could put too much of a strain on your body, given your disability.
Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation With an Experienced Tampa SSDI Lawyer
If you are interested in submitting an SSDI claim with the SSA, have already submitted an SSDI claim and have had it denied, then you should speak to a skilled SSDI attorney for guidance through the hearing process.
Here at the Office of Mike Murburg, P.A., our attorneys have advocated on behalf of SSDI claimants, helping them secure the benefits they are entitled to — whether by challenging an adverse determination of the SSA, or by evaluating a potential claim submission. We have extensive experience handling difficult disability claims, and as such, are well-equipped to respond to the issues typical of such disputes.
Call (813) 264-5363 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Tampa SSDI lawyer at the Office of Mike Murburg, P.A. We look forward to speaking to you further about your disability claims.