Give Me Five Minutes And I Will Tell You How A Vocational Evaluator’s Testimony Can Make Or Break Your Social Security Disability Claim
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits the Social Security Administration will use a Five Step Sequential Evaluation to determine your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits.
More often than not, the decision is made at Steps 4 and 5 of the Five Step Sequential Evaluation. At Step 4 the Social Security Administration will determine whether you are capable of returning to the lightest job you’ve held in the 15 years before you became disabled in view of your physical or psychological restrictions and limitations. If you can meet Step 4, the Social Security Administration must next determine at Step 5 whether there is other work you could perform in the national economy based on your age, education, training, and experience.
Step 5 is a difficult test to meet!
So How Does It Work At A Disability Hearing?
When you have a Social Security Disability hearing, you and a vocational evaluator will be the star witnesses. First, an Administrative Law Judge will ask you questions about your past work, symptoms and what you’ll do on a daily basis. Your attorney should supplement your testimony by explaining your symptoms and how those symptoms impact your ability to sit, stand, walk, bend, and stoop. For example, you testify that you have to take frequent breaks, elevate your legs or have difficulty using your hands.
Why Is This Important?
The first question the Social Security Judge will ask the vocational evaluator is to classify the physical requirements of your past work. The Judge will want to know whether the work was heavy, medium, light or sedentary.
The Judge will then pose a hypothetical to the vocational evaluator about your physical and psychiatric restrictions and limitations and ask the vocational evaluator whether or not you can return to work at the lightest job you’ve held in the 15 years before you became disabled. You want your employment/work history forms and your testimony to establish why you couldn’t go back to the lightest job you’ve helped in the 15 years before you became disabled. That’s Step 4.
Assuming that you meet Step 4, the Judge is then going to pose additional hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator about what sorts of jobs you might be capable of performing based on your restrictions. The vocational evaluator will testify about the types of jobs that exist in the United States that you might be capable to perform based on your age, education, training, and experience.
The Make Or Break Step In A Case
Cases are won and lost at Step 5 based on the hypothetical given by the Judge. Quite frankly, many Judges don’t consider every medical impairment the claimant suffers from when forming the hypothetical questions.
Let’s say that you had a back injury that limits your ability to sit more than an hour at a time and requires you to take a break every ten minutes to change positions. Add to the mix, carpal tunnel syndrome of both hands which causes numbness and tingling. You drop things and have difficulty using your fingers.
If the Judge only asks the vocational evaluator about the back condition, the vocational evaluator will most likely testify that there are other jobs that you would be capable of performing such as surveillance system monitors, napkin folders, and address writers. If the Judge stops there, you’re going to lose.
It’s crucial that you’re represented in a Social Security hearing because your attorney should ask questions of the vocational evaluator about the types of jobs that you could perform and include ALL medical conditions. The bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome would eliminate all of the jobs that the vocational evaluator testified you would be capable of doing. But, if that question isn’t asked, you’ll lose.
Why You Need An Experienced Social Security Attorney
Dealing with the vocational experts at a Social Security Disability hearing is just beyond the skills of most Social Security Disability applicant. Having an experienced Social Security Disability attorney on your side to cross-examine the vocational evaluator and develop all of the medical evidence is crucial in getting your Social Security Disability benefits.
Call today at 727-894-3188 for your complimentary consultation.