We Explain What These 3 Common ALJ – Vocational Expert Situations at Social Security Disability Hearings Mean for Your Case


At the end of your Social Security disability hearing the administrative law judge (ALJ) may ask the vocational expert to provide testimony.


Usually the vocational expert testimony has three parts. First the ALJ will ask the vocational expert about his or her qualifications to testify as an expert and whether the vocational expert has talked about the case with the ALJ, the claimant, or the claimant’s disability attorney. Then the ALJ will ask the vocational expert to classify the exertional and specific vocational preparation (SVP) levels for the claimant’s past work. And finally the ALJ will ask the vocational expert to respond to a series of hypothetical questions.


This article explains three situations that may happen between the administrative law judge and vocational expert at your disability hearing and what they mean for your case. If you have a question, call, text, or email Virginia Beach disability lawyer and SSD attorney Newport News Corey Pollard for a free case evaluation. We evaluate disabled adults and disabled children across Virginia.


The ALJ calls a vocational expert to testify at your disability hearing but asks no questions.


If the ALJ has asked a vocational expert to testify at hearing but doesn’t ask him or her any questions, this is either a very good or a very bad thing.


In my experience it means that the ALJ has determined that you either meet the criteria for a medical condition found in the Listing of Impairments or that you have a residual functional capacity (RFC) that would lead to you being found disabled under the Medical – Vocational Guidelines based on your age, education, and pas work experience. Of course either of these scenarios is a good thing because you would receive a favorable decision from the Social Security Administration.


There is, however, a possibility that the ALJ has decided not to ask the vocational expert any questions because he or she has found that you do not have a severe medical impairment or that you can return to your past relevant work. If you’ve hired an experienced Social Security lawyer then he or she will have a good idea of whether this is a concern. It depends on the ALJ hearing your case, whether you have any opinion statements from your treating medical providers, and the exertional and SVP levels of your past work.


The ALJ asks the vocational expert just one hypothetical question.


In my experience it is a good thing if the ALJ asks the vocational expert just one hypothetical questions. Because usually the one question leads to an answer that you cannot work.


If this happens your attorney should not ask the vocational expert any questions. It is the Social Security Administration’s burden to prove that there is other work you can perform based on your residual functional capacity assessment, age, education, and past work experience.


The claimant is closely approaching advanced age or has reached advanced age.


The Social Security disability evaluate changes when a claimant reaches age 50 and again when the claimant reaches age 55. If you are over the age of 50, limited to unskilled sedentary work, and the vocational expert testifies that you have no transferable skills and are unable to return to any of your past relevant work, then you win. There are similar situations where you win at age 55 or older.


Your attorney should not ask the vocational expert any questions that try to exclude work at the sedentary level (if you’re age 50 to 54) or light level (if you’re 55 or older) if the vocational expert has testified that you cannot perform past work. This is because a “yes” answer from the vocational expert would still lead to a finding that you’re disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, also called the Grid Rules.


Have a question about applying for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security disability process, or proving you’re disabled? Then contact Corey Pollard today for a free consultation.