I-2-5-50.When to Obtain Vocational Expert Opinion

Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-118)

A. When an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) May Need To Obtain Vocational Expert (VE) Opinion

An ALJ may need to obtain a VE's opinion, either in testimony at a hearing or in written responses to interrogatories, when the ALJ is determining whether the claimant's impairment(s) prevents the performance of past relevant work.

An ALJ may also determine a VE's opinion is necessary when the ALJ is determining whether the claimant's impairment(s) prevents the performance of any other work and he or she cannot decide the case under any of the tables in 20 CFR Part 404 Subpart P Appendix 2, for any of the following reasons:

  • The claimant's residual functional capacity falls between two exertional levels (e.g., the claimant may be able to perform more than the full range of sedentary work, but less than the full range of light work);

  • The claimant has solely nonexertional limitations; or

  • The claimant has a combination of exertional and nonexertional limitations.

B. When the ALJ Must Obtain VE Opinion

The ALJ must obtain a VE's opinion when directed by the Appeals Council or a court. The ALJ must also obtain a VE opinion if an Acquiescence Ruling (AR), such as one of the following, requires VE evidence.

  • Third Circuit (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania): AR 01-1(3): Sykes v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259 (3d Cir. 2000) — Using the Grid Rules as a Framework for Decisionmaking When an Individual's Occupational Base is Eroded by a Nonexertional Limitation — Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.

  • Eighth Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota): AR 2014-1(8): Brock v. Astrue, Requiring Vocational Specialist (VS) or Vocational Expert (VE) Evidence When an Individual has a Severe Mental Impairment(s) - Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act