Role of Experts
At an administrative hearing, there may be witnesses called by the Administrative Law Judge to provide testimony about your medical conditions or work background and ability to return to work. The notice of hearing from the judge’s office provides information on whether there will be witnesses attending your hearing, who they are, and what issues he or she will be testifying about. Most common witnesses used by Social Security are Vocational Experts and Medical Experts.
Vocational Experts are present at a hearing and may be asked to provide testimony about an individual’s past work and the ability to perform other work that exists in the national economy. A Vocational Expert can testify in person or over the phone, and does not have to have met you to provide his or her opinion about your work background and answer questions at the hearing. It is a common misconception that the Vocational Expert can help you find a job or that the jobs identified are hiring or pay well. This is not the role of the Vocational Expert, and the issues are not whether a person would be hired for a particular job, or whether they would enjoy the work, or whether it pays well, but rather whether the person has the capacity-both physically and mentally- to perform any other type of work that exists in the United States.
Specific information about your mental, physical, educational, and vocational limitations is critical to a disability claim. Whether or not you qualify for a disability may depend on an analysis of vocational factors and Social Security’s regulations in this area are complex. It is important to have an attorney with experience in evaluating vocational information and cross-examining a vocational expert witness at a hearing.
At an administrative hearing, the Vocational Expert is often asked to identify the person’s past work. It may be critical to a claim that the past work be identified accurately. This becomes more important for individual’s over the age of 50. Social Security acknowledges that as a person ages, their ability to adapt to new skills, tools, and work settings diminishes. For example, a 55-year old with past work as heavy equipment operator with less than high school education is in a different position vocationally than a 40-year old who has worked as an administrative assistant and has a graduate degree. Other factors, such as composite jobs or transferable skills require an attorney experienced with the vocational factors used to analyze a person’s vocational background and can elicit testimony from the vocational expert favorable to the claim.
Attorneys at Martone Law Firm cross-examine Vocational Experts on a regular basis, and we are often familiar with the particular individual selected to testify. It is a benefit to have a local and experienced attorney by your side at the hearing.
Medical Experts can be called to testify at a hearing if there is an issue with establishing a remote onset date of disability or whether or not the individual meets a listed impairment. If a medical expert is contacted to testify, that person is provided with information about the claimant’s impairments and asked at the hearing by the Administrative Law Judge his or her opinion on the individual’s functional limitations as of a certain date. It is important to have an experienced attorney at a hearing that can respond quickly to testimony from a medical expert that is unfavorable to the claimant or elicit testimony that better assists the evaluation process.
Attorneys at Martone Law Firm are experienced with cross-examining medical experts at hearings, and will make sure that the Administrative Law Judge has all the information needed to fairly adjudicate your claim.