What Was the Vocational Expert Talking About?


If you applied for Social Security Disability benefits and you get denied at the initial level, you will have the opportunity to go to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. These hearings are informal and private, which means that there will not be an opposing counsel shouting, “I object!” However, a vocational exert will be in attendance. Both you and the vocational expert testify under oath.

At the end of the hearing, after you have testified, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) turns to the vocational expert. The ALJ asks the expert if they have spoken to either the ALJ or your disability lawyer about the substance of the case and if they can provide objective testimony. The SSA pays the expert’s fees, but they’re required to be objective and reasonable.

Then the ALJ will ask the expert to characterize your past work. Once they have done that, the ALJ will ask them to respond to a series of hypothetical questions. The expert is required to base their testimony on The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”), which classifies all jobs in the national economy. You will likely hear the expert list a code along with other technical items. The expert is listing the code contained in the DOT for a particular job that you either did in the past, or a hypothetical person similar to you could do. Your disability lawyer can help you understand what the expert’s testimony meant after the hearing.