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Most Social Security Disability Income ("SSDI") applicants are surprised to find that the Federal Government will use their tax dollars to hire expert witnesses to testify against them at their hearings. While these can be medical doctors, psychiatric specialists and Ph.Ds, ABRAMS LANDAU disability lawyer Doug Landau usually sees a "Vocational Expert" ("VE") on the other side of the table. This hired expert witness has usually never spoken with or met the disabled claimant, but they are permitted to testify and render opinions and responses to hypothetical questions from the Federal Administrative Law Judge. In a recent case where the claimant represented herself, the court found that the disabled worker had "moderate restrictions in her activities of daily living ("ADLs"), symptoms of pain, depression and fatigue. The Administrative Law Judge found the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform "light work." In this particular Social Security Disability claim, it meant that:

  • she can lift or carry 10 pounds frequently, 20 pounds occasionally; stand and walk for 6 hours in an 8 hour work day; sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour work day with the ability to alternate positions 2 minutes each hour, she can tolerate occasional climbing, and avoid working around machinery.

With these restrictions, the ALJ asked hypothetical questions of the Vocational Expert ("VE") hired by the Federal Government to give evidence at the Hearing. The ALJ asked the VE whether jobs exist in the national economy for an individual with the claimant’s age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity. The expert witness testified that given all of these factors the individual would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as

  • general office helper (1,000 locally and 40,000 nationally)
  • router (3,000 locally and 80,000 nationally)
  • and a marker (10,000 locally and 400,000 nationally)

This does not mean that these jobs are being offered to the claimant, or that they are hiring at all, fit just shows the judge that there are plenty of jobs that exist that the claimant could hypothetically do given her restrictions and background. Because there are so many, the judge found that the claimant was not disabled. The ALJ found that the claimant, though she suffered from several disabling conditions, was not precluded from performing substantial gainful activity ("SGA" or work for pay) that existed in significant numbers in the economy. Social Security disability lawyer Doug Landau notes that you do not have to eliminate every single possible job that might exist anywhere in the country, but that you do have to eliminate the ability to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in order to win an SSDI claim. If you or someone you know has become disabled from work, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once. The sooner the necessary evidence can be determined and organized, the better the likely outcome.

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