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Vocational Experts

Burdine & Brown Oct. 11, 2019

Some people ask me how does the Social Security Administration decide if someone is disabled and eligible for benefits.

First of all, there is an earnings requirement. Simply put, if you have not worked and contributed money into the Social Security System (FICA payments from your payroll check) in 20 of the last 40 quarters (or 5 out of the last 10 years) you will not be eligible to draw disability benefits.

Then the SSA attempts to determine if you can perform your daily job, or a similar job or any job in the national economy in sufficient numbers. Do you have transferable skills to make it easy for you to transition into other employment? If so, you will not be considered disabled.

The way the SSA does it is to hire a Vocational Expert who testifies at your Hearing. Frankly, the Vocational Evaluators are a hit or miss. Some are quite experienced and others are not. Some are ready to be on the Judge's “good side” and will somehow twist the facts to give an opinion that there is work you can do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in spite of your disabilities. If so, the Government carries their burden and your lawyer must show that your injuries/disabilities are far too great for you to do the work the VE says you can do.

My approach to the VE is to bury him with huge amounts of medical evidence that clearly demonstrates my client is genuinely not capable of any work. This takes time and money and a good amount of doctor testimony about their patients. By and large, doctors cooperate with me. There are some who say they will not complete any documentation for their patients. It is unfortunate that these doctors exist since they do not stand by the Hippocratic Oath they took when they graduated medical school: “to treat the ill to the best of one's ability, to preserve a patient's privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on.”

Quality medical evidence addressing all my client's disabilities almost always wins the case. If the doctor believes you, he or she will likely help me to develop your functional disabilities.