Last Update: 9/2/05 (Transmittal I-2-64)
When the ALJ determines that the testimony of a Vocational Expert (VE) is needed at the hearing (See I-2-5-48, Vocational Experts — General, through I-2-5-61, Use of Dually-Qualified Vocational and Medical Experts.), the ALJ must:
have no substantive contact related to the merits of the case with the VE except at the hearing or in writing, and any such writing shall be made an exhibit;
send copies of any correspondence between the ALJ and the VE to the claimant and make such correspondence an exhibit; and
request that the VE examine any pertinent evidence received between the time the VE completed the case study and the time of the hearing.
When a VE is scheduled to testify at a hearing, the HO staff must notify the claimant of this proposed appearance by placing a statement to that effect in the “REMARKS” section of the Notice of Hearing.
At the hearing, the ALJ must advise the claimant of the reason for the VE's presence and explain the procedures to be followed.
The VE may attend the entire hearing, but this is not required. If the VE was not present to hear pertinent testimony; e.g., testimony regarding past relevant work, educational background, etc., the ALJ will summarize the testimony for the VE on the record.
After administering the oath or affirmation, the ALJ must:
“qualify” the VE by eliciting information regarding his or her impartiality, expertise, professional qualifications, etc.;
ask the claimant and the representative if they have any objections to the VE testifying; and
rule on any objection. The ALJ's ruling may be on the record or in narrative format, which shall then be made an exhibit. The ruling may also be addressed in the body of the ALJ decision.
The ALJ will ask the VE questions designed to elicit clear and complete information. The claimant and the representative have the right to question the VE fully on any pertinent matter within the VE's area of expertise. However, the ALJ will determine when they may exercise this right and the appropriateness of any questions asked or answers given. For example:
If a VE's replies are ambiguous or overly technical, the ALJ will follow up with more specific questions in order to obtain a response in terms understandable to the average layperson.
The ALJ will not permit a VE to respond to questions on medical matters or to draw conclusions not within the VE's authority; e.g., regarding the claimant's residual functional capacity or the resolution of ultimate issues of fact or law.
The ALJ will not ask or allow the VE to conduct any type of vocational examination of the claimant during the hearing.
The ALJ may use hypothetical questions to elicit the VE's opinion about the availability of jobs that an individual could perform given certain factual situations. (See I-2-5-94 Sample - Interrogatories to Vocational Expert.)
Before the ALJ may rely on a VE's testimony to support a disability determination or decision, the ALJ must inquire on the record whether any conflicts between occupational evidence the VE provided and information contained in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), including its companion publication, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles (SCO), published by the U. S. Department of Labor. The ALJ must identify and obtain a reasonable explanation for any such conflict. The ALJ must explain in the decision how any conflict that has been identified has been resolved. See SSR 00-4p.