Questions for the Vocational Expert

Administrative law judges call vocational experts to testify in Social Security disability hearings more frequently than they call medical experts, and few attorneys like to hear that a vocational expert will be testifying at a hearing. They think that administrative law judges usually call vocational experts to help the SSA meet its burden of proof in denying benefits. However, the presence of a vocational expert at your client’s hearing does not necessarily mean that the claim will be denied. Success or failure at this point depends in large part on the testimony of the vocational expert and on how well you cross-examine him or her.

This section of presents you with some sample questions in two common areas of cross-examination: alternating sitting and standing and transferable skills. Of course, there are other issues that will come up when cross-examining a vocational expert, but these articles will give you an idea of the type of questions to ask. Note that there are more questions presented here than you’ll likely get to ask in your hearing. ALJs are usually in a hurry, and a wide-ranging inquiry about all aspects of a case isn’t practical. It is better to ask a few focused, well-chosen questions and ask to hold the record open to submit a rebuttal report from a vocational expert you hire.