When you go to a hearing there will most likely be a vocational expert (VE) in attendance. The VE will answer some questions from the ALJ regarding jobs in the economy and the VE will answer some hypotheticals from the ALJ. The ALJ will the weigh the VE’s testimony along with other evidence and decide whether a person is disabled or not.

There is a recent case out of the Ninth Circuit regarding a VE’s testimony. In Tester v. Colvin, No. 14-35210, (9th Cir. Aug. 25, 2015), “[t]he ALJ heard testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”) that a person with Tester’s residual functioning capacity (RFC) could perform work as a cannery worker or mail clerk. Accordingly, the ALJ found that there were jobs Tester could perform despite his limitations and that therefore he was not disabled.”

The ALJ also found that the claimant was limited to “simple, 1-2 step work.” Since both of the jobs listed by the VE have a reasoning level of 2, the Ninth Circuit ordered a remand and ordered the ALJ to resolve the conflict within the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). A job with a reasoning level of 2 requires the claimant to “[a]pply commonsense understanding to carry out detailed but uninvolved written or oral instructions. Deal with problems involving a few concrete variables in or from standardized situations.” According to SSR 00-4p the ALJs have an affirmative responsibility to resolve apparent conflicts within the DOT.

The court further went on to note that this was not a harmless error, because Social Security “fails to give any significance to the evidence in the record that Tester’s capacity had diminished since his previous employment.”

Here is a link to the full case



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