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The Role of Vocational Experts in SSD/SSI Claims

The Role of Vocational Experts in SSD/SSI Claims

When applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, vocational experts play an important role in the evaluation process. Vocational experts provide expertise in assessing an applicant’s ability to perform work-related activities and the availability of suitable job options. Let’s explore the role of vocational experts in SSD/SSI claims.

Evaluating Ability to Perform Past Work

Vocational experts evaluate an applicant’s ability to perform their past work based on their medical condition, functional limitations, and the requirements of their previous job. They review the applicant’s work history, job duties, physical and mental demands of the work, and other relevant factors. By considering these aspects, vocational experts assess whether the applicant can still perform their past work despite their impairments.

Identifying Transferable Skills

When an applicant is unable to perform their past work due to their impairments, vocational experts assess the individual’s transferable skills. Transferable skills are abilities and knowledge acquired through past work experiences that can be utilized in other job settings. Vocational experts identify transferable skills that may be applicable to different types of work and consider how those skills can be applied to new employment opportunities.

Evaluating Job Availability and Suitability

Based on an applicant’s functional limitations, vocational experts assess the availability of jobs in the national economy that the applicant could potentially perform. They consider factors such as physical and mental demands, required skills and education, and the number of available positions. Vocational experts utilize various resources, including labor market data and industry trends, to determine if suitable job options exist that match the applicant’s abilities and limitations.

Providing Expert Testimony

During administrative hearings or appeals, vocational experts may be called upon to provide expert testimony. They present their professional opinion regarding the applicant’s ability to perform work, considering their impairments, functional limitations, and available job options. Vocational experts may be questioned by administrative law judges, attorneys, or representatives involved in the adjudication process, and their testimony can significantly impact the outcome of the SSD/SSI claim.

Considering Medical-Vocational Guidelines

Vocational experts also consider the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, commonly referred to as the “grid rules” or “grid regulations,” developed by the SSA. These guidelines provide a framework for evaluating an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits based on their age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity (RFC). The vocational expert’s assessment of an applicant’s vocational factors and the grid rules helps determine their potential eligibility for SSD/SSI benefits.


Vocational experts play a crucial role in Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims. Their expertise in evaluating an applicant’s ability to perform work-related activities, identifying transferable skills, assessing job availability and suitability, providing expert testimony, and considering the Medical-Vocational Guidelines helps determine an individual’s eligibility for benefits. Understanding the role of vocational experts can help applicants navigate the claims process and present their case effectively during hearings or appeals.

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