Social Security Case Remanded on Vocational Issues

Posted on Oct 13, 2015
A Federal Court recently remanded a case back to the hearings office due to deficiencies in the questions provided to the Vocational Expert at the hearings level.

In almost every Social Security Disability hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will retain a Vocational Expert to provide testimony. Essentially, the Judge asks hypothetical questions asking the Vocational Expert to assume that a hypothetical Claimant can perform certain physical and/or mental activities in a work place. One of the often covered activities is the ability to reach.

In this case, the treating physician wrote a report that the disability claimant was unable to reach, push, pull or handle objects with her right arm. At the hearing, the ALJ did not include all of these limitations when providing hypothetical questions to the Vocational Expert. As a result, the Vocational Expert had no choice to find that the hypothetical Claimant was able to do certain kinds of work activity.

The Judge at the federal court level found that the ALJ should have been more specific about the Claimant’s reaching limitations when posing hypothetical questions. Because the ALJ failed to ask hypothetical questions that included those set out in the medical opinion, the case was sent back for another hearing..

This deciison shows the importance of providing accurate and complete testimony about physical and mental limitations that could affect whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.  For more information on how hearings work, check out this article.