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Social Security Disability: The SSA's Response to Concerns Raised About the Reliability of VEs

Posted by attorney Nathaniel Hubley

In response to mounting concerns about the reliability of VE testimony, the SSA enacted S.S.R. 00-4p as an administrative check on the broad credibility granted to VEs. S.S.R. 00-4p is essentially an administrative or "regulatory Daubert" check on the broad credibility granted to vocational experts.

Under this Ruling, the ALJ is required to act as a gatekeeper by inquiring whether the VE's testimony adheres to data found in the DOT. Although the SSA only recently enacted S.S.R. 00-4p, the ruling has already been eroded by courts. The erosion continues to occur because courts are divided as to whether the failure to inquire into DOT inconsistencies entitles claimants to relief.

In other words, if the ALJ fails to fulfill their gatekeeping duty as mandated by S.S.R. 00-4p, the question arises as to whether that failure constitutes a reversible error. Courts have taken three avenues: first, some courts have ruled that the ALJ's failure to fulfill the gatekeeping role by S.S.R. 00-4p does not constitute a reversible error; second, other courts have held that failure to comply with S.S.R. 00-4p constitutes a reversible error; third, other courts have taken a middle ground approach by holding that whether failure to follow the mandate of S.S.R. 00-4p constitutes reversible error depends on the degree of the failure and the circumstances surrounding the decision.

Viewing the three approaches as a whole, it is evident that the SSA still requires compliance with S.S.R 00-4p and that noncompliance is not always harmless error. Because the VE relies on the unreliable and obsolete DOT, and because there are no particularized standards regulating the VEs, the integrity of VE testimony and the SSA's entire disability determination process is brought into question. Additionally, without testimony from VEs and reliance on the DOT, the SSA disability determination process crumbles.

Thus, because the validity of the VE's testimony has been compromised, the entire SSA disability determination process is susceptible to collapse. In an attempt to address concerns about the validity of VE testimony and reliance on the DOT, Part III addresses the practical effect of applying a Daubert-type standard to VE testimony in the SSA's disability adjudication system. By applying this standard as proposed in Part IV, the SSA will ensure that the integrity of its disability adjudication system remains intact, and that the claimant is afforded an adequate level of protection against arbitrary and capricious testimony.

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Navigating your way through life is not always easy. Sometimes you're thrown a curve - often at themost inopportune time. When that happens contact Indiana Disability Attorney Nathaniel Hubley. More information about the Social Security Disability process can be found at or visiting the Social Security Administrations' website.

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