The Importance of Vocational Evidence in Disability Claims

In both private disability insurance claims and Social Security disability claims, vocational evidence is usually considered when determining whether an individual is disabled or not. Vocational evidence is information about an individual’s occupation or the occupations they may be able to perform when considering their functional capacity, training, education, and work experience. This kind of evidence can consist of job descriptions from the employer, self-reported job duties, information from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or other similar resources, and the opinions of vocational experts (also known as vocational rehabilitation consultants).

Long Term Disability Insurance

When someone becomes disabled and their employer provides long term disability insurance, then that person often applies for disability benefits under the requirement that they are unable to perform the duties of their “own occupation.” Under this type of definition of disability, the individual must show to the insurance company that because of their medical condition(s), they cannot return to their previous job.

During this stage of the disability claims review, the insurance company may consider the individual’s job duties and may gather information from the employer, the claimant, publications like the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, or a vocational expert. It is most common for the insurance company to at least gather the employer’s job description as part of their claims analysis.

Most private disability insurance policies limit the time for which a person can receive disability benefits under the “own occupation” definition and after a predefined amount of time (often 24 months), the definition of disability requires that the individual prove that because of their medical condition(s), they cannot perform the duties of “any occupation”. At this stage of the disability review, vocational evidence becomes even more important because the claimant has to prove that there are no occupations he or she can perform. The insurance company may use the opinions of vocational experts and resources like the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or ONET (Occupational Information Network) to find other occupations that the claimant may perform.

The claimant is also allowed to provide the insurance company with vocational evidence in order to prove that they meet the definition of disability. The claimant can gather the opinion of a vocational expert about whether or not their medical condition precludes employment under the terms of the insurance company’s definition of disability. In addition, the claimant may be able to review the insurance company’s vocational information to refute any inaccuracies. A strong rebuttal to the insurance company’s vocational review could be the difference between your claim being approved or denied. Our law firm may be able to provide you with legal advice about vocational evidence.

Social Security Disability Claims
The Social Security Administration (SSA) also gathers information about a claimant’s past relevant work. The SSA asks the individual to report all of their employment in the last 15 years and to describe the skills, physical demands, and other requirements of their previous work. Although a claimant must prove to the SSA that their disability prevents them from performing any substantial gainful activity, part of that process requires the claimant to prove that they are unable to perform past relevant work.

If a claimant has been denied Social Security disability benefits at the initial level and reconsideration level, then they are entitled to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. In order to determine whether the claimant can perform substantial gainful activity, the SSA usually hires a vocational expert to testify at the claimant’s hearing. This expert considers the claimant’s past relevant work and residual functional capacity, and then testifies about available jobs for the claimant.

During this stage of the SSA’s review, a skilled attorney can cross-examine the vocational expert and possibly shed light on why a claimant is unable to perform jobs that were suggested by the vocational examiner. Cross-examining a vocational expert can be crucial to the success of the claimant’s Social Security claim.

If your long term disability insurance claim or Social Security disability claim has been denied, contact the O’Ryan Law Firm. We can investigate your case at no charge. Call today: 317-255-1000.