A vocational expert (VE) is a vocational professional who provides impartial expert testimony either at a disability hearing or in written responses to questions asked during the hearing process on claims for benefits under the Social Security Act. To determine whether someone applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows a sequential evaluation process. The last steps of the analysis are to determine whether, given their impairments, the claimant can perform their past work or other work that exists in the national economy, considering the “vocational factors” of age, education and work experience. The regulations require SSA to take administrative notice of “reliable job information” available from various publications, including the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). SSA uses VEs as sources of occupational evidence in most claims.
Before scheduling the hearing, the assigned administrative law judge (ALJ) will review a case to determine whether VE testimony is needed. A VE provides testimony by either testifying at a hearing or providing a written response to interrogatories. The claimant’s appointed representative can cross-examine the vocational expert at the hearing and respond to written responses the VE gives to interrogatories.