I-2-5-48.Vocational Experts — General

Last Update: 9/28/05 (Transmittal I-2-68)

VEs are vocational professionals who provide impartial expert opinion during the hearings process on claims under title II and title XVI of the Social Security Act or claims for Black Lung Benefits by either testifying at hearings or providing written responses to interrogatories.

The following general guidelines apply to an ALJ's use of a VE in the hearing proceedings:

  • The ALJ may use a VE before, during, or after the hearing.

  • The ALJ must avoid any off-the-record discussion with the VE. If such a discussion occurs, the ALJ must summarize the discussion on the record at the hearing or by entering a written summary into the record as an exhibit.

  • The ALJ may not use a VE who has had prior professional contact with the claimant.

  • The ALJ may not ask a VE to provide an opinion on psychological (i.e., medical) matters even if the VE is a certified mental health professional. (See I-2-5-61, Use of Dually-Qualified Vocational and Medical Experts.)

  • The VE's opinion is not binding on the ALJ. The ALJ must weigh a VE's opinion along with all other evidence.