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How a Vocational Expert Can Damage Your SSDI Claim


If you are considering or have already applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may already know that there are strict rules to qualify for benefits. The basic eligibility criteria are:

  • You must be unable to work or physically limited because of a disabling medical condition that is expected to continue for at least 12 months; and,
  • You must have a sufficient work history through earning at least 20 work credits in the last 10 years.

Even when you believe you have strong evidence regarding these qualifications, you may still be denied benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA). One key reason for rejecting your application is an assertion that you CAN work, even if you are unable to continue in your chosen occupation. SSA may rely on the input of a vocational expert on this topic if you request a disability hearing, which can be damaging to your interests. Therefore, it is essential that you understand what this person does and how your Maryland Social Security disability lawyer can counter the potentially harmful testimony.

Is a disability hearing necessary to obtain SSDI? If you have already been denied SSDI benefits, your case is closed in the eyes of SSA. The good news is that a denial is not the end of the process. You can still ask for reconsideration, and you may go a step further by requesting a disability hearing to prove eligibility. If the reason for rejecting your application is that you are able to do other work, SSA will bring a vocational expert (VE) in to testify before the administrative law judge. 

What does a VE do? This professional has training and experience in assessing how different medical conditions affect the ability to work for a person applying for SSDI benefits. Vocational experts know what skills and capabilities are necessary to perform certain jobs, so they apply these factors to physical, mental, and emotional limitations in an attempt to match up the applicant with an appropriate job. 

Why would a vocational expert testify at my disability hearing? By denying your SSDI application on the grounds of your ability to work, SSA is taking the position that you can work in some position – thus, you are not eligible for SSDI benefits. The VE can be called to your disability hearing to express his or her opinion on whether your work history and skills can be transferred to a new occupation?

Can I cross-examine a vocational expert witness? Yes, you can ask questions, and cross-examination is one of the most effective, beneficial tasks your attorney will perform. Your lawyer can expose weaknesses in the VE’s opinion by asking questions on:

  • Research methods;
  • Sources for the opinion;
  • Outdated information; and,
  • Other details that demonstrate that the individual’s conclusions are unsupported.

Our Maryland SSDI Attorneys Can Help with Your Disability Hearing

If you have additional questions about vocational experts, please contact the Maryland Social Security disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC. Once we learn more about your case, we can develop a strategy to respond to such testimony and fight to get the SSDI benefits you deserve.

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