Monthly Archives

July 2014

Understanding a Video Hearing in Your Social Security Disability Case

By English Blogs

Understanding a Video Hearing in Your Social Security Disability Case

Clients will frequently ask a Lawrence Social Security disability lawyer about video hearings when the case is before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Your Lawrence Social Security Disability Lawyer Will Explain the Expert Appearing via Video in Your HearingAbogado de Incapacidad Lawrence

There are times that the ALJ will be in one location with the expert and the claimant will be in a different location. Sometimes the expert will be with the claimant. In short, anyone – the expert, claimant’s attorney – can appear via video. It’s up to the ALJ.

Issues Surrounding Video Hearings Your Lawrence Social Security Disability Lawyer Might Face

If you would prefer to have an in-person hearing and your Lawrence Social Security disability lawyer makes the request, the ALJ might be changed. If the ALJ is known as a good judge and could be favorable to your case, making a change is risky.

A video hearing will make it hard for the lawyer to be able to introduce new evidence in a timely fashion. The ALJ will have the exhibit file, and your lawyer won’t have the chance to review them if there is a video hearing. Time to study new information could be a problem for your lawyer in these circumstances.

Speak to an Experienced Lawrence Social Security Disability Attorney

If you have concerns about a video hearing in your case, a Lawrence Social Security disability lawyer can help. Call Gerard A. Palma at 888-295-4955 to discuss your case today.

Entendiendo un Video de Audiencia en Su Caso de Seguro Social de Incapacidad

By Spanish Blogs

Entendiendo un Video de Audiencia en Su Caso de Seguro Social de Incapacidad.

Clientes preguntan con frecuencia a un abogado Lawrence de incapacidad del Seguro Social acerca de las audiencias de video cuando el caso está ante el Juez de Derecho Administrativo (ALJ).abogado Lawrence de incapacidad del Seguro Social

Su Abogado de Incapacidad del Seguro Social Lawrence le explicará los expertos  apareciendo a través del vídeo en su audiencia

Hay momentos en que el ALJ estarán en un solo lugar con el experto y el reclamante estará en una ubicación diferente. A veces, el experto estará con el reclamante. En resumen, cualquier persona – el experto, el abogado del reclamante – puede aparecer a través de video. Todo depende de la ALJ.

Cuestiones relacionadas con las audiencias de video a su abogado Lawrence de Incapacidad del Seguro Social podría enfrentar

Si usted prefiere tener una audiencia en persona y su abogado Lawrence de incapacidad del Seguro Social hace la solicitud, el juez de derecho administrativo puede ser cambiado. Si el juez de derecho administrativo se conoce como un buen juez y podría ser favorable para su caso, por lo que un cambio puede ser arriesgado.

Una audiencia por video hará que sea difícil para el abogado poder introducir nuevas pruebas en el momento oportuno. El juez tendrá el archivo de exposición y su abogado no tendrá la oportunidad de revisar si hay una audiencia por video. Tiempo para estudiar la nueva información podría ser un problema para su abogado en estas circunstancias.

Hable con un abogado Lawrence de Incapacidad del Seguro Social con experiencia

Si usted tiene preocupaciones acerca de una audiencia de video en su caso, un abogado de incapacidades Lawrence del Seguridad Social puede ayudar. Llame a Gerard A. Palma al 888-295-4955 para discutir su caso hoy.

Your testimony

By Your disability hearing

Your Testimony at Your Social Security Disability Hearing

The following questions are the types of questions that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or your attorney may ask you during your Social Security disability hearing.

Not all of these questions will be relevant to your Social Security case, and for some of the questions the answers may not matter too much to the judge’s decision about your disability benefits.

However, it is important for your testimony to show your individual limitations, and these questions show you the types of things that may come up at your disability hearing.

Background, Age, Education and Vocational Training

  • Name, address, Social Security number.
  • Date of birth, age today, age at onset of disability.
  • Highest grade completed in school.

If you did not complete high school:

  • Did you get a G.E.D.?

If you are not fluent in English:

  • Where were you born?
  • What language did you grow up speaking?
  • Where were you educated?
  • When did you come to the United States?
  • What language is spoken at your home today?
  • Who reads the mail at your house?
  • Are you able to read in another language?

In mental retardation and similar cases:

  • Did you attend regular classes or special education classes?
  • How well did you do in school?
  • If an 8th grade reading level is average, would you say that you’re at least an average reader?

If you are less than an average reader:

  • Can you read and understand a newspaper?
  • Can you “read or write a simple message such as instructions or inventory lists”?

If you are illiterate:

  • Who does your reading for you?
  • How have you handled job applications?
  • How did you get a driver’s license?
  • How have you managed to deal with SSA forms?
  • Can you multiply and divide/add and subtract/make change?
  • Describe any vocational training; was it completed? When?
  • Describe any on-the-job training. When?
  • Describe any training in the military. When?

Work Experience

For work to be “past relevant work” it must have been done within the last 15 years, lasted long enough for you to learn to do it, and was substantial gainful activity.

Thus, for all work during 15 years prior to date of adjudication or prior to last date insured if that date is earlier, you may be asked about the following:

1. Job background information:

  • Name of employer
  • Approximate dates of employment
  • Name of job
  • Job duties
  • Full time or part time
  • Length of employment
  • Did you do this job long enough to learn the job and develop “the facility needed for average performance”
  • Earnings (relevant to SGA issue and in assessing skill level)
  • Why did you leave this job?
  • Before you left this job, did your impairment cause you to miss work, do a poor job, change job duties, change hours of work, etc.?

2. Exertional level:

  • Heaviest weight lifted/carried
    • How often did you lift/carry this much?
    • What objects weighed this much?
    • How far did you carry them?
  • Average weight lifted/carried
    • How often?
    • What objects?
    • How far?
  • How much sitting and standing/walking in an eight-hour working day?
  • Did the nature of this job allow you to sit, stand or walk as you chose?
  • How much bending? Any crawling, climbing, balancing?
  • How much manipulative ability was required?

3. Environmental limitations:

  • Describe work environment: temperature, wetness, humidity, noise, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, hazards (e.g. machinery, heights).

4. Skill level:

  • How long did it take to learn to do this job?
  • Describe machines, tools and equipment used.
  • Describe any technical knowledge or skill used on this job.
  • Describe any writing or completing reports.
  • How much independent judgment was required?
  • Describe any supervisory responsibilities: how many people? Did you complete work evaluations? Have any hiring/firing responsibilities?

5. Stress level:

Where stress tolerance is an issue:

  • What was it about this job that you found stressful? e.g., speed, precision, complexity, deadlines, working within a schedule, making decisions, exercising independent judgment, working with other people, dealing with the public (strangers), dealing with supervisors, being criticized by supervisors, simply knowing that work is supervised, monotony of routine, getting to work regularly, remaining at work for a full day?

6. Meeting your burden of proof:

  • Why can’t you do this job now?

Or, if no longer insured for Title II:

  • Why couldn’t you do this job as of [the date last insured]?

Medical History

Medical history is established by the medical records. Most ALJs have read the medical records and taken notes on them for use at the hearing. Thus, detailed testimony about medical history is not necessary in most cases.

Because of the requirement that you be disabled for 12 months, it is the plateaus, not the valleys or peaks, that are most important in a Social Security disability case.

Your medical history can establish a time frame for the your testimony about the plateaus.

The degree to which the judge or your attorney will ask about your medical history depends on the nature of your case. Cases in which more development of medical history is necessary include those involving virtually every known treatment for pain, unusual impairments, unusual treatment or especially cryptic medical records where testimony from the claimant will educate the ALJ.

If medical history is required, your attorney may asked the following types of questions:

Q: You injured your back at work on January 15th, 20__, didn’t you?

Q: And you never went back to work after that, did you?

Q: Your condition continued to get worse, you had numerous medical tests which found a ruptured disc, and you had surgery on May 15, 20__, didn’t you?

Q: During the summer of 20__ you recovered from the immediate aftereffects of surgery, didn’t you?

Q: And wouldn’t you say that as of September 15th of 20__, the day your doctor told the worker’s compensation insurance carrier that your condition had plateaued, your symptoms then were pretty much the same as they are now?

Current Treatment

While, as a rule, testimony about past medical treatment should be kept to a minimum, you may be asked a lot of questions about current, on-going treatment, and any lack of ongoing treatment should be fully explained.

You may be asked the following:

  • Names of those treating you now.
  • Their specialties.
  • Length of relationship.
  • Frequency of treatment.
  • Which condition does this doctor, therapist, etc. treat?
  • What treatment does he provide?
  • How much has this treatment helped?
  • What medication do you take now? How much do you take each time you take it? How often do you take it? Are there any side-effects? How much does it help and for how long?
  • If no regular treatment/medication, why not?

Physical Symptoms

If the main issue in your disability hearing is the extent of your physical impairment, then your description of your symptoms is the most important part of your testimony. If you can give a credible, vivid description of your symptoms, then you will have taken a giant step toward winning your case.

The following types of questions cover different aspects of physical symptoms of disability.

General Physical Symptoms


Description of the pain:

  • What is nature of your pain?
  • What is the location of your pain?
  • What happened to cause you to have this pain?
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Has there been any significant period since it started that the pain was in remission?
  • If so, what caused the period of remission (e.g., medication, surgery, physical therapy)? How long did the remission last?
  • What does the pain feel like?
  • Is it tender to touch?
  • Does it limit the amount you can bend the affected joint? How much?
  • Is the quality of the pain always the same or is it sometimes different? If so, how and when is it different?
  • Show us where this pain is located. (Your attorney might then say something like “Let the record reflect that the claimant is pointing to his low back at the beltline.”)
  • Is this pain constant or does it come and go?
  • If it comes and goes:
    • How often does it come?
    • How long does it last?
    • How many hours per day/days per month do you have this pain?
    • What sorts of things bring on this pain?
    • What relieves it?
  • Do you have muscle spasms?
  • How severe is your pain? If we use a ten-point scale with ten being the most severe pain you’ve ever had, how would you rank the pain you’ve been telling us about?
  • Is it always of the same intensity? If not, how often is it at each intensity?
  • What increases the intensity of your pain? Is it affected by movement, activity, staying in one position, environmental conditions or stress?
  • Does the pain ever radiate, such as going down one of your legs? If so:
    • Which leg?
    • What route does it travel? Be specific.
    • What does it feel like when it goes down your leg?
    • How often does this happen?
  • Is there any numbness or pins-and-needles feeling associated with this pain?
  • Are there any other symptoms associated with this pain, such as redness, swelling, heat, stiffness, crepitus (crackling noise heard when joint moves), muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, fatigue, appetite loss, weight loss?

Treatment for the pain:

  • How often do you see your doctor?
  • What does your doctor do for you?
  • How is the pain affected by medication?
  • Do you have side effects from pain medication such as drowsiness, dizziness, lack of concentration, slow reflexes, nausea?
  • What treatment other than medication have you tried, such as transcutaneous nerve stimulator (TENS unit), physical therapy, massage, “back school” (training in back exercises and mechanics), bio-feedback, hypnosis, psychological therapy, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, Hubbard tank, traction, exercises, injections, pain clinic? How much have these things helped?
  • What home remedies have you tried, such as hot baths, heating pads, ointments? How much have these things helped?
  • Is the pain helped by limiting your activities, lying down, shifting positions frequently, sitting in a special chair, etc.?

Resulting restrictions:

  • How has this pain affected your life?
  • Do you use assistive devices? (For example, cane, brace, cervical collar, special door handles, gripping devices, bathtub or shower bars, special chair.)
  • Are your daily activities affected (including relationship with others, sleep, hobbies, etc.)?
  • Are you irritable, depressed, worried, anxious, have difficulty concentrating, or remembering?
  • How has the pain affected your capacity for work? See mental and physical residual functional capacity.

Shortness of breath:

  • What brings on shortness of breath?
    • Cardiac chest pain?
    • Lung congestion?
    • Asthma?
    • Weather changes?
    • Allergies?
    • Speaking?
    • Exertion?
    • Lying down?
    • Hyperventilation?
    • Stress?
    • Panic attacks?
  • Describe how it feels when you are short of breath.
  • How many pillows do you use when you sleep?
  • How many stairs can you climb before you become short of breath and have to stop?
  • How fast do you walk?
  • How far can you walk before you become short of breath and have to stop?
  • Are you bothered by dust, fumes, gases? If so, to what degree do you need to be in a clean environment?
  • How often do you wheeze?
  • How often do you have lung infections?
  • How often do you have acute episodes of breathing problems?
    • What brings on these acute episodes?
    • How long does each episode last?
    • What are your symptoms during acute episodes?
  • How often would you miss work because of your breathing problems?
  • If you were at work, would you need to take unscheduled breaks? If so, do you expect that this would occur daily, weekly, several times per month? Would you need to sit down or recline?


  • When did you begin feeling fatigued?
  • Did fatigue come on gradually or all at once?
  • Describe your fatigue.
  • Is it the same as being weak? physically tired? lacking energy?
  • Is it the same as being drowsy or sleepy?
  • When you are fatigued, how would you describe your level of motivation to do anything?
  • Is your fatigue associated with a lack of patience?
  • What things make your fatigue worse?
    • Physical activity?
    • Stress?
    • Heat?
    • Depression?
  • Give specific examples of things that worsen your fatigue.
    • How much physical activity will bring on fatigue?
    • Give examples of stressful things that you think made your fatigue worse in the past.
    • How much heat brings on the fatigue?
    • Will a hot bath make you fatigued?
  • Is fatigue affected by the time of day? What time of day is worse? What time of day is better?
  • What things make your fatigue better?
    • Rest?
    • Sleep?
    • Positive experiences?
  • How well do you sleep?
  • How long do you need to rest for your fatigue to get better so that you can get up and do something?

Physical Residual Functional Capacity

One of the issues in a Social Security disability hearing is your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).

The following questions are the type that you might be asked about your residual functional capacity.

When you answer these questions, you should be estimate your capacity to do these activities on a day-to-day basis, 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, approximately 50 weeks per year in a regular work setting.

You should also volunteer examples of your limitations due to your disability.


  • Do you have any problem with sitting?
  • How long can you sit:
    • Continuously in one stretch?
    • Total during an eight-hour working day (with normal breaks)?
  • When you sit, can you sit:
    • Without squirming?
    • Without leaning on elbows?
  • Can you sit:
    • At a desk?
    • In an armless office chair?
    • In an office chair with arms?
    • On a backless stool?
    • At a bench?
    • On a high backless stool?
    • On a high stool with a back?
    • In a work-like position?
    • With your arms extended?
    • With hands available to manipulate objects?
    • With neck slightly bent forward?
  • If pain limits your sitting tolerance, describe:
    • Changes in the pain.
    • The way the pain feels (type or quality of pain)
    • Radiation of the pain.
    • Intensity
    • How you try to control the pain (e.g., shifting position in chair, leaning, getting out of the chair)
  • If you must get out of the chair:
    • How long can you sit before getting up?
    • How long can you:
      • Stand?
      • Walk?
      • Lie down?
    • How long is it before you can resume sitting?
  • When you sit is it necessary for you to elevate a leg? If so:
    • Which leg?
    • How long must you elevate it?
    • How high?
  • When you get up from sitting:
    • Do you need help getting up?
    • Do you have difficulty standing when you first get up? If so, why (e.g., dizziness, stiffness, pain)?
    • How long does this problem last?
  • What happens if you try to sit too long? Give examples of sitting; limitations:
    • Driving or riding in a car.
    • Sitting at the dining room table.
    • Eating.
    • Paying bills.
    • Watching a movie.
    • Watching television.
    • Doing crafts.
    • Fishing.
  • Have you had to give up or limit any hobbies because of your problem with sitting?

Alternate Sitting, Standing and Walking Lists

  • Can you alternate sitting with standing? If so:
    • How often do you need to stand?
    • How long must you stand before resuming sitting?
    • Can you work at a bench while standing?
  • Does it depend on the height of the bench?
    • Can you get through an eight-hour working day alternating sitting and standing? If not, how many hours total?
  • Is it necessary for you to alternate periods of sitting with periods of walking?
    • Why?
    • How often do you need to walk?
    • How long, must you walk before you can resume sitting?
    • Can you get through an eight-hour working day alternating sitting and walking? If not, how many hours total?


  • Do you have any problem with standing?
  • How long can you stand:
    • Continuously in one stretch?
    • Total during an eight-hour working day?
  • When you stand, can you stand:
    • Without moving away from a machine?
    • Without leaning against something?
    • In a work-like position:
      • With your arms extended?
      • With hands available to manipulate objects?
      • With neck slightly bent forward?
  • What happens if you try to stand too long?
  • Examples of standing limitations:
    • Waiting in line.
    • Standing at the stove to cook.
    • Doing dishes at the sink.
    • Waiting for a bus.


  • Do you have any problem with walking?
  • How long/how far can you walk:
    • Continuously in one stretch without stopping to rest?
    • Total during an eight-hour working day?
  • Can you walk:
    • Without an assistive device?
    • At a normal speed?
  • What happens if you try to walk too far?
  • Do you have any problem keeping your balance on a slippery or moving surface?
  • Examples of walking limitations:
    • Walking the aisles at a grocery store.
    • Walking around the neighborhood.

Lifting and Carrying

  • Do you have any problem with lifting or carrying?
  • How much can you lift or carry:
    • If you only had to do it for up to one-third of a work day?
    • If you had to do it from one-third to two-thirds of a work day?
  • What is the heaviest thing you encounter in your daily life that you can still lift and carry?
  • Describe how you lift/carry these objects.
  • What sorts of things that you encounter in your daily life can you no longer lift and carry?
  • What happens when you try to lift or carry too much?

Postural Limitations

  • Describe any difficulty:
    • Bending at the waist.
    • Twisting.
    • Stooping (bending the spine).
    • Kneeling (bending the legs).
    • Crouching (bending both the spine and the legs).
    • Climbing stairs.
    • Climbing a ladder.
    • Other climbing.
    • Crawling.
  • Can you do these activities:
    • Up to one-third of a working day?
    • From one-third to two-thirds of a working day?
  • What happens if you overdo any of these activities?

Manipulative Limitations

  • Are you left or right-handed?
  • Describe any difficulty using your hands and arms for:
    • Reaching all directions, including overhead.
    • Handling objects (gross manipulation).
    • Fingering (fine manipulation).
    • Feeling.
    • Pushing or pulling.
    • Twisting the wrists.
    • Working with hand tools (e.g., screwdrivers, pliers).
  • Do you have any problem with dropping things?
  • Do your hands ever shake? go numb? have a pins and needles sensation?
  • How well can you perform the following?
    • Opening a jar.
    • Opening a door.
    • Buttoning clothes.
    • Picking up coins.
    • Writing.
    • Washing the dishes.
  • Can you do repetitive hand activities for most of an eight-hour working day?


  • How did you get to this hearing today?
  • How often have you left your home during the past (month) (year)?
  • When you go out:
    • Where do you go?
    • Do you usually go alone?
  • If you usually have someone with you when you go out, why don’t you go alone?
  • Do you have emotional problems when you leave your home alone?
    • If so, describe the feelings you have and why it is difficult to leave your home alone.
  • Do you have a driver’s license?
    • If no, have you ever had a driver’s license?
    • Why don’t you have one now?
  • Do you have any special restrictions on your driver’s license? For example:
    • Glasses?
    • Times of day?
    • Speed?
    • Distance?
  • Do you have a handicapped parking permit?
  • Do you have regular access to an automobile?
    • Does it have power or regular brakes and steering?
    • Does it have a standard or automatic transmission?
  • How is driving different for you now than before your health problems became severe?
  • How often do you drive?
  • How long (or far) can you tolerate driving before you have to stop and rest?
    • How long must you rest?
  • What is the greatest distance (or longest time) you have driven in the last year?
    • Did you have to stop during this trip?
    • How many times and for how long?
  • Describe any difficulties with:
    • Getting into or out of a car.
    • Turning your head from side to side.
    • Looking behind you when you drive in reverse.
    • Sitting while you drive.
    • Using your legs while driving.
    • Using your arms or hands while driving.
    • Vision.
  • Do you have emotional problems while driving? For example:
    • Mental confusion?
    • Nervousness or fear?
    • Getting lost?
    • Difficulty keeping your concentration and attention?
  • Are you taking any medications:
    • Which affect your driving?
    • About which you have been warned that you should not drive while taking them?
    • If so, what are these medications?
  • If you have problems driving, how do you get around?
  • Do you have problems being a passenger in a car, either physically (e.g., getting in and out, prolonged sitting) or emotionally (e.g., paranoia, anxiety)?
  • Do you ride the bus or use any other public transportation?
    • If so, how often?
  • Do you have difficulties taking a bus, such as:
    • Walking to the bus stop?
    • Standing waiting for the bus?
    • Climbing the steps into the bus?
    • Sitting on the bus?
    • Standing on the bus?
    • Have you ever fallen while on a bus?
  • Do you have any emotional problems riding buses?
    • If a bus is crowded, do you feel anxious or paranoid?
  • Have you ever gotten lost or missed your stop while riding a bus?
    • What happened?
    • How often has this happened?

Good Days/Bad Days

  • If your capacity widely varies, categorize your days, for example:
    • Good days/bad days.
    • Good days/so-so days/bad days.
  • Describe each kind of day.
  • What are you capable of doing on each kind of day?
  • Would you be going to work on a bad day?
  • How many of each kind of day do you have in a month?

Daily Activities

Background and General Description

  • Do you live in an apartment, a house, a duplex, a condo, a mobile home?
    • Does your house have one story or two?
    • Is your bedroom upstairs or downstairs?
    • How many rooms?
  • What do you do on an average day?
  • Describe your day for us from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night.
  • Give us some examples of things you do differently now than you used to do.

Activities of Daily Living

How are the following things handled at your house?

  • Cooking.
  • Doing the dishes.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Cleaning.
  • Dusting.
  • Straightening up.
  • Taking out the garbage.
  • Making beds.
  • Changing bed sheets.
  • Vacuuming.
  • Floor mopping.
  • Bathroom cleaning.
  • Laundry.
  • Watching children.
  • Yard work.
  • Grass cutting.
  • Gardening.
  • Snow shoveling.
  • Home repairs.
  • Paying bills/handling finances.
  • Going to the post office.
  • Taking public transportation.
  • Obtaining a telephone number from phone directory or directory assistance.

Social Functioning and Leisure Activities

  • How often do you visit:
    • Family members?
    • Friends?
    • Neighbors?
  • Do you initiate contacts or do they?
  • Do you have any problem getting along with:
    • Family?
    • Friends?
    • Neighbors?
    • Store clerks?
    • Landlords?
    • Bus drivers?
  • How often do you go to church?
  • Do you participate in any organizations?
  • Do you play cards? Other games?
  • Do you attend sports events?
  • Do you go to movies?
  • Do you go out to eat?
  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • How often do you read the newspaper
  • Do you watch television news programs?
  • Do you keep up with current events?

Personal Care

  • Do you have any problem, need any assistance or reminders with:
    • Dressing?
    • Buttoning clothes?
    • Tying shoelaces?
    • Bathing?
    • Combing/fixing hair?
    • Shaving?
  • Do you get dressed every day?

Examples of Limited Activities

  • How much time do you spend daily doing the following:
    • Sitting in your favorite chair? Describe the chair.
    • Watching television?
    • Reading?
    • Talking on the telephone?
    • Sleeping?
    • Lying down?
  • Where do you go to lie down (e.g., bed, couch, recliner)?
  • How often do you drive a car?
  • How often do you go out of the house?
  • When you begin a household task, do you complete it in a timely manner? If not, give examples.
  • Are there any hobbies you have been forced to give up because of your impairment?

Mental Symptoms

If your disability involves mental symptoms, the questions that you will be asked will attempt to get you to talk about your symptoms. For example, after asking whether you have a specific symptom, you will be asked to explain or tell about it.

You want to talk freely about your symptoms so that the judge can make a good evaluation of your qualifications for disability benefits.


If stress tolerance is at issue, you will be questioned about the specific kinds of things that you find stressful.

There may be questions about examples of stressful things, and for descriptions of what happens to you when you are under stress (e.g., panicky feeling, terror, a feeling of impending doom, fight or flight response, trembling, shaking, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, smothering feeling, choking, feeling faint, unsteady, sweaty, nausea, stomach ache, numbness, tingling, hot flashes, chills, hallucinations, flashbacks, fear of dying, fear of going crazy, fear of doing something uncontrolled).

Questions may relate to the following work demands that some people find stressful:

  • speed.
  • precision.
  • complexity.
  • deadlines.
  • working within a schedule.
  • making decisions.
  • exercising independent judgment.
  • completing tasks.
  • working with other people.
  • dealing with the public (strangers).
  • dealing with supervisors.
  • being criticized by supervisors.
  • simply knowing that work is supervised.
  • getting to work regularly.
  • remaining at work for a full day.
  • fear of failure at work.

The Social Security Administration often takes the position that routine repetitive work constitutes low stress work. But many people find one or more of the following aspects of such work to be stressful:

  • monotony of routine.
  • little latitude for decision-making.
  • lack of collaboration on the job.
  • no opportunity for learning new things.
  • underutilization of skills.
  • lack of meaningfulness of work.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity

You may be asked questions about your ability to deal with the following:

  • Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions:
    • remember locations and work-like procedures.
    • understand and remember very short and simple instructions.
    • carry out very short and simple instructions.
    • maintain concentration and attention for extended periods (the approximately 2-hour segments between arrival and first break, lunch, second break and departure).
    • perform activities within a schedule.
    • maintain regular attendance.
    • be punctual within customary tolerances.
    • sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision.
    • work in coordination with or proximity to others without being unduly distracted by them.
    • complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms.
    • perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods.
  • Use of judgment:
    • make simple work-related decisions.
    • be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions.
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations:
    • ask simple questions or request assistance.
    • accept instructions.
    • respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors.
    • get along with coworkers or peers without unduly distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes.
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting:
    • respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting.

Lay witnesses

By Your disability hearing

Lay Witnesses at a Social Security Disability Hearing

At your Social Security disability hearing, sincere, straightforward lay testimony from your lay (non-expert) witnesses can well be the deciding factor in your disability claim. It is a very rare disability claim under the Social Security Act that does not need good lay witnesses.

Select a Few Good Witnesses

Your attorney will not want all of your friends and family to testify. Instead, you and your attorney will select a few witnesses who can corroborate and, where possible, add to your testimony.

Screen your witnesses carefully. Eliminate those who have difficulty in expressing themselves, those who do not really want to testify, those who do not have good firsthand knowledge of some aspect of the case, and those who have an exaggerated opinion of themselves and their cleverness.

The most common lay witnesses are your spouse, adult children (sometimes minor children), other relatives, and close friends.

Often such close family members and friends are the only people who can provide helpful testimony. However, sometimes ALJs tend to view such people as less objective than neighbors, former employers or co-workers, and other associates, such as members of the same church or union, or members of hobby groups or professional groups. Therefore, depending on the issues in your case, you may want to look for possible witnesses who are outside of your immediate circle of family and close friends and who, therefore, might be properly characterized as more objective.

Prepare Witnesses But Do Not Rehearse Testimony

Your attorney will interview your witnesses ahead of time. This preliminary interview will be mostly devoted to selecting the best witnesses and to telling them how their testimony can be most effective.

However, your attorney will not rehearse the witnesses. It is almost impossible to rehearse a witness so that testimony does not appear to be rehearsed and consequently entitled to less weight. Rehearsed testimony tends to be trite and stilted, to add unneeded details and, quite often, to overlook valuable information that might be elicited through spontaneous testimony.

Good Testimony Emphasizes Observation and Avoids Conclusions

The best possible testimony from lay witnesses emphasizes their observations and minimizes their conclusions.

For example, testimony from a layman that you suffer from emphysema, grand mal epilepsy, or arachnoiditis is simply a restatement of what someone else has told him and adds little to your case, particularly if other evidence from better sources shows the witness to be in error.

Similarly, it does not help to have a lay witnesses testify that you are “disabled,” “totally disabled, or “permanently disabled.” Disability under the Social Security Act is not premised on total disability or permanent disability, and the use of those terms may cloud your presentation, particularly if the entire evidence shows that you are disabled but that the disability is not either total or permanent.

Here are some sample questions that your attorney might ask a lay witness:


  • In the last few years, have you observed the claimant having any difficulty walking? Describe what you have observed.
  • Expressed in terms of city blocks, how far would be a long way for the claimant to walk without stopping to rest? How long will the claimant need to rest?

Arms and Hands:

  • Has the claimant had any difficulty using his or her arms or hands? Describe what you have observed.
  • Does the claimant drop things? What things? How often have you observed this?


  • Does the claimant appear to be in pain?
  • About how much of the time is he or she in pain?
  • How do you know the claimant is in pain?


  • Does the claimant seem to get worn out easily? What would be a good example (other than walking) of an activity that would wear the claimant out? How long does the claimant then need to rest?


  • Is the speed or pace at which the claimant does things any different from the speed or pace at which normal people do things? What is the difference?
  • Expressed as a percentage, about what percentage of a normal person’s pace is the claimant’s pace?


  • Have you noticed any mental or emotional changes in the claimant? E.g., depression, crying spells, panic attacks, social withdrawal, problems with memory, attention span, or concentration. How often? How long do these problems last?

Corroborative Testimony

Sometimes the goal of using lay testimony is to simply corroborate your testimony.

Here is an example of how your attorney might do that:

Q: How often do you have the opportunity to observe the claimant?
A: Every day.
Q: You have been present throughout the claimant’s testimony, haven’t you?
A: Yes.
Q: If I were to ask you the same questions that you heard asked of the claimant, would your answers be the same or essentially the same as the answers given by the claimant?
A: Yes.
Q: From your observations of the claimant, has he testified truthfully here today?
A: Yes he has.

Before and After Testimony

Sometimes your attorney will try to get “before” and “after” testimony from lay witnesses. This type of testimony compares your condition from before your disability started to how you function now.

A poor example would be if your wife testified that you have emphysema, are disabled, and that the two of you need the money. This testimony does not emphasize her observations, and merely provides conclusions.

A better approach is if she testifies that she has known you for 28 years and has been married to you for 26 years, that you have always been a hard worker and a good provider, that you are now distraught because you can no longer provide for the family, and that because of your illness she has had to go to work, she has made a start.

It is even better if she then testifies as to your impairments, as observed by her, and indicates how they limit your actions, particularly those having to do with work functions, and verifies your medical regimen. In addition, she can describe in graphic detail that you keep her awake most of the night with your continuous coughing, that you appear to have difficulty lifting a gallon of milk from the refrigerator, that you recently tried to pick up a two-year-old grandchild and dropped him, that you quit smoking last year and use an intermittent positive pressure breathing machine regularly in addition to taking prescribed medication and still have difficulty breathing after walking to the mailbox, 50 feet from the front door.

Examples of Good and Poor Testimony

The following examples show the difference between strong and weak lay testimony. The best examples provide detailed testimony about a specific incident observed by the witness, showing an anecdote that represents many other such incidents.



[Your name] has epilepsy.

[This is a conclusion, quite likely based on what someone has told the witness who, being a layman, not a doctor, may be surprised before the end of the hearing to learn that the claimant suffers from an organic brain syndrome instead of epilepsy.]


My son suffers from grand mal epilepsy according to his doctor, and [your name] actions are almost the same as my son’s. He has what appears to be seizures, falls down, bites his tongue, loses consciousness, and loses control of his bladder. When he recovers, after 25 minutes or so, he appears to be in a daze and has trouble speaking. He sleeps for a couple of hours and then appears to be all right. I have seen this happen maybe a dozen times in the last two years.

[These observations will go far to convince the administrative law judge that the claimant suffers from a serious seizure disorder, regardless of the label placed on it.]

Breathing Impairment


[Your name] has emphysema.


[Your name] sits in a chair by the window most of the day. The phone is maybe 20 feet away. When his wife is not there and he has to answer the phone when I call, he is gasping for breath after walking even that short distance and has to rest for a minute after saying, “Hello.”

[In this sample testimony the witness has furnished not a conclusion (“emphysema”) but observations from which the administrative law judge can conclude that the claimant has a severe breathing impairment. The exact label to be placed on the impairment (emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, allergy, tuberculosis) is not important at this point, and can be supplied by the administrative law judge after all the evidence is in.]



My husband is disabled by his pain.


From what I have seen since my husband came home from the hospital, he appears to be in almost constant pain. He is up and down all night, groans in his sleep, and never appears to be comfortable. His doctor told him to take up to four pain tablets a day, but he never takes less than six. Then he takes a dozen or so aspirin on top of that. He has lost his appetite and 15 pounds. Our social life is nonexistent. He doesn’t drive anymore, or even ride in a car when he doesn’t have to, since he says it hurts too much. I do all the grocery shopping and do the yard work because I’m convinced he hurts too bad to do it. He always did those things before he was hurt. We don’t go to church anymore because he says he can’t sit still that long.

Coworker Testimony


[Your name] was disabled even while he was working at the plant with me.


I worked with [your name] for six years. He always did his share of the work until he was hurt. In the last year he was there, I saw him faint twice and took him to the emergency room at the hospital on one occasion. The foreman gave him a lighter job, where he wouldn’t have to lift over five pounds and wouldn’t have to work around moving machinery. All of us pitched in and did part of his work for him. He was absent one or two days a week toward the last. I understand he is retired now on disability.


[Your name] can’t do her housework.


[Your name] has always been a meticulous housekeeper. However, during the past year, she has simply let the housework go. I do the laundry for her and the vacuuming. When I visit her, she is usually resting on the couch or in bed. I have seen her try to cook dinner and drop a pan full of hot food. She drops dishes a lot. Once, when I was there, she fainted while she was cooking dinner and fell across the stove.


Operating a power sewing machine in a clothing factory is hard work. [Your name] can’t do it anymore.


I sat next to [your name] at the sewing factory and we operated power sewing machines. We were required to sit all day, except for one 30 minute lunch break and two 15 minute coffee breaks. We were required to use both hands and one foot to perform the necessary sewing operations and had to lift and carry up to 20 pounds of finished garments. We had a quota to make. It required good eyesight and good coordination. If she can’t do all those things, she can’t do the work.


As personnel manager for the XYZ Company, I can say that [your name] is too disabled to do her former work, even though she tried.


As personnel manager for the XYZ Company, I am familiar with the work [your name] did. She worked as a hand sander, finishing pieces of furniture. This required her to stand for eight hours a day, with the usual breaks, to bend, stoop, work in awkward positions, and to lift up to 30 pounds. She was often absent due to her illness and once we had to shut down the assembly line due to her absence. Our records show that during the last six months she worked for us, she was absent for 31 whole days and went home early on 16 occasions. Her work was satisfactory when she was there, but she was absent so much we had to let her go. Reports from her doctor indicated that she was absent due to treatment for a nervous condition.

Company Disability


As personnel manager, I think [your name] is entitled to social security disability benefits since he is already drawing disability retirement from our company.


As personnel manager, I help make disability determinations for persons who file for disability benefits under our company plan. Under our policy, a person is considered disabled if he is unable to do his usual work or comparable work in the plant because of his impairments, for a period of at least six months. Under that definition, [your name] has been found by us to be disabled.

Vocational issues

By Your disability hearing

Vocational Issues in Social Security Disability

There are a limited number of vocational issues in a Social Security disability case. They are:

1. What are the physical and mental demands of the claimant’s past relevant work as the claimant performed it?

A vocational expert (VE) is probably not necessary to answer this question. A Social Security regulation provides that “statements by the claimant regarding past work are generally sufficient for determining the skill level, exertional demands and nonexertional demands of such work.”

However, if a vocational expert is present at the hearing, the VE will probably be asked to describe your past relevant work. The regulations provide that a “vocational expert or specialist may offer relevant evidence within his or her expertise or knowledge concerning the physical and mental demands of a claimant’s past relevant work, either as the claimant actually performed it or as generally performed in the national economy. Such evidence may be helpful in supplementing or evaluating the accuracy of the claimant’s description of his past work.”

2. What are the physical and mental demands of the claimant’s former job as generally required by employers throughout the national economy?

This issue comes up if you are unable to do any past job as the you actually performed it, but a past job involved functional demands and job duties significantly in excess of those generally required for that job by other employers.

You will be found not disabled if you retain the capacity to perform the job as ordinarily required by employers throughout the national economy.

3. Can the claimant meet the demands of the claimant’s previous work, either as the claimant actually performed it or as generally performed in the national economy?

The regulations provide that “a vocational expert or specialist may offer expert opinion testimony in response to a hypothetical question about whether a person with the physical and mental limitations imposed by the claimant’s medical impairment(s) can meet the demands of the claimant’s previous work, either as the claimant actually performed it or as generally performed in the national economy.”

4. Does the claimant have skills that are transferable to a significant range of work?

The issue of transferability of work skills is a complicated one made relevant in some cases by the Medical-Vocational Guidelines.

This issue does not come up very often.

Even if it is determined that there are no transferable skills, younger claimants may be denied benefits based upon the capacity for unskilled work. In those cases involving claimants age 50 and over where transferability matters, there are different standards based on age for determining whether or not skills are transferable.

5. Is the claimant capable of performing other work? Do jobs exist in significant numbers within the claimant’s RFC considering age, education and work experience? That is, is vocational adjustment possible to other work?

This issue includes the questions: For a literate, English speaking claimant under age 50, how many jobs are available to a claimant with a particular residual functional capacity? For the rest, how much of the claimant’s occupational base has been eroded by his or her impairments?

These issues come up when the Medical-Vocational Guidelines do not direct a conclusion that you are or are not disabled.

For the Medical-Vocational Guidelines to be used, your RFC, education and work experience must coincide with the criteria of one of the rules in the Guidelines. Where there is no close fit between your characteristics and the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, the Guidelines must be used as a framework for determining the interaction of your remaining occupational base with the other factors affecting capability for occupational adjustment—age, education and work experience.

The Government’s Vocational Expert

If your case involves a vocational issue then a vocational expert (VE) may be scheduled to testify. This expert is most likely to be appointed by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), but sometimes your attorney may have an opportunity to have your own VE testify or provide a written opinion.

Vocational experts testify at the request of the Social Security Administration in many more Social Security disability hearings than do medical experts. However, the experience, knowledge, ability, understanding of the VE role, and the prejudices of individual VEs vary much more widely than do the skills and experience of medical experts. Your attorney will probably not be pleased to receive a notice that a government vocational expert will be testifying at your hearing.

The primary purpose of vocational expert testimony is to meet the Social Security Administration’s burden of proof in denying disability benefits. However, this may not be the motivation of an individual ALJ. Generally the presence of a VE at a disability hearing means that the ALJ has reviewed the hearing exhibits and concluded that you cannot do past work, at least as you actually performed it, and that the case is not one in which benefits can be granted or denied using the Medical-Vocational Guidelines alone.

The vocational expert is supposed to address the vocational issues created by the Social Security Act and the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. The Social Security Act provides that a claimant “shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education and work experience, engage in any other kinds of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy . . . in significant numbers.”

The Medical-Vocational Guidelines were designed to address two things:

(1) whether jobs exist in significant numbers for certain combinations of residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education and work experience.

(2) to set the parameters for assessing the impact of age, education and work experience in those cases where the rules themselves do not direct a conclusion whether a claimant is or is not disabled.

If you are under age 50 (or under age 45 if illiterate or unable to communicate in English), the job of the vocational expert is to determine how many jobs you are capable of doing based on the your residual functional capacity. If you are capable of performing a “significant number” of jobs, then you are not disabled. Age, education and work experience really do not enter into this calculation.

It is the decision-maker’s job to determine what a “significant number” is.

The Medical-Vocational Guidelines say that a claimant with the same age, education and work experience will be found disabled if limited to sedentary work, but if he were capable of a full range of light work he will be found not disabled.

An ALJ needs to consult a vocational expert “where the extent of the erosion of the occupational base is not clear” and the claimant’s exertional capacity falls between two rules from the Medical-Vocational Guidelines that dictate opposite conclusions.

In recent years, when the Medical-Vocational Guidelines are not directly applicable, the role of the vocational expert in assessing the case of a claimant over age 50 is simply to offer an opinion about the number of jobs in the economy that the claimant is capable of performing. Then, it is up to the ALJ to determine whether this is a “significant number.” Although ALJs tend to take an “I know a significant number when I see one” approach, the regulations require “full consideration to all relevant facts in accordance with the definitions and discussions under vocational considerations,” and “full consideration must be given to all of the relevant facts in the case in accordance with the definitions and discussions of each factor in the appropriate sections of the regulations, which will provide insight into the adjudicative weight to be accorded each factor.”

Testimony from a Vocational Expert

ALJs usually do not ask any Vocational Experts questions about vocational adjustment or erosion of the occupational base. The questions ALJs usually ask are:

1. What are the skill and exertional levels of the claimant’s past job as the claimant actually performed it?

2. What are the skill and exertional levels of the claimant’s past job as generally required by employers throughout the country?

3. Assuming that the claimant is capable of [describe hypothetical RFC findings, etc.], is the claimant capable of returning to past relevant work?

4. [Where the issue of transferability of skills is critical:] If the claimant has the following residual functional capacity: [insert RFC], and the claimant is incapable of performing his skilled (or semi-skilled) past relevant work, does the claimant have any acquired skills that are transferable to some other skilled or semi-skilled work?

If yes,

  • list the transferable skills;
  • identify the jobs to which these skills transfer; and
  • state the number of these jobs in the local and national economy.

5. [Where the Medical-Vocational Guidelines do not direct a conclusion of whether the claimant is or is not disabled:] Assuming that the claimant is unable to perform the prior work of [insert description of PRW], that the claimant has no transferable work skills, that the claimant’s educational level is [insert educational level], and that the claimant’s residual functional capacity is [insert RFC], is the claimant capable of performing other work?

If yes,

  • identify the jobs; and
  • state the number of these jobs in the local and national economy.

Vocational experts “should give full and complete answers to the questions posed by the ALJ and should not volunteer information.” They are expected to testify “only on vocational issues and only on those vocational issues which are relevant to the requirements of the statute, regulations and rulings.”

A VE is not supposed to:

  • Provide his or her own evaluation of the medical evidence.
  • State whether you are a proper candidate for vocational rehabilitation.
  • State whether you can compete with unimpaired individuals for available employment.
  • State whether job vacancies exist or whether you would be hired for existing jobs.
  • State whether you can perform in a specific occupation with the same degree of efficiency or productivity as individuals with less than severe or no impairments.
  • State whether you are or are not disabled.

The Americans With Disabilities Act Has Different Requirements

A memorandum to staff and judges from the Associate Commissioner of the Social Security Administration emphasized that the ADA and the disability provisions of the Social Security Act have different purposes, and have no direct application to one another. For example, the ADA defines “disability” in relation to the ability to perform what it describes as “major life activities.” Therefore, the term is not synonymous with “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) contains brief descriptions of 12,741 occupations. There is a close link between the DOT and Social Security regulations. The DOT provided the definitions of exertional and skill levels in the regulations; and the grids, the individual charts based on exertional levels in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, are based on the numbers of unskilled DOT occupational titles at each level of exertion.

Vocational experts are expected to be familiar with the DOT. The Social Security Administration relies on the DOT and other publications, even though the DOT is out of date (it was last revised in 1991). The Department of Labor has stopped revising the DOT and is replacing it with the O*Net, which has virtually no useful information for disability determination using the current sequential evaluation process.

The Social Security Administration has told decision-makers that when making disability decisions, they are not to rely on the O*Net.

In addition, a Social Security regulation provides that if vocational expert testimony conflicts with the DOT, the ALJ must obtain a reasonable explanation and set forth in the decision how the conflict was resolved.

Physical Exertion Levels

The classification of physical exertion levels used by the Social Security Administration is the same as in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. However, the work levels published by the Department of Labor in the DOT have changed since the Social Security regulation was first published. The work levels stated in the Social Security regulations, which coincides with earlier editions of the DOT, may be summarized as follows:

Sedentary jobs involve sitting; walking and standing are required occasionally. When walking or standing are involved to a significant degree, the job is classified as light even when the weight lifted is negligible. A job is also classified as light when it involves sitting most of the time with a degree of pushing and pulling of arm and/or leg controls.

The 1991 revised edition of the DOT uses different definitions of exertional levels, which recognizes that constant lifting increases the exertional level. These newer definitions may be useful in cases where your client’s past relevant work required constant lifting.

Occasionally: activity or condition exists up to 1/3 of the time.
Frequently: activity or condition exists from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time.
Constantly: activity or condition exists 2/3 or more of the time.

*The definition of Light Work used in the 1991 Revision includes the following notation:

Even though the weight lifted requirements may be a negligible amount, a job should be rated Light Work when it requires:

(1) walking or standing to a significant degree; or
(2) sitting most of the time but entails pushing and or pulling of arm or leg controls; and/or
(3) working at a production rate pace entailing the constant pushing and/or pulling of materials even though the weight of those materials is negligible.

DOT Specific Vocational Preparation and Skill Level

Social Security regulations define unskilled work as work that a person can usually learn to do in 30 days.

The DOT sets forth training time for jobs called “specific vocational preparation ” or SVP, which is the time it takes to develop the facility for average performance on the job. The different SVP levels correspond to the Social Security Administration’s definitions of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled work in the following chart:

There are relatively few SVP 1 occupations found in the DOT. Here are the numbers of SVP 1 and SVP 2 DOT titles by exertional level (including the numbers of semi-skilled and skilled DOT occupational titles by exertional level):

Example of the Use of the DOT: Nurse Assistant

The DOT contains an “Alphabetical Index of Occupational Titles,” and includes the following entry.

355.674-014 NURSE ASSISTANT (medical ser.) alternate titles: nurse aide

Performs any combination of following duties in care of patients in hospital, nursing home, or other medical facility, under the direction of nursing and medical staff. Answers signal lights and bells, or intercom system to determine patients’ needs. Bathes, dresses, and undresses patients. Serves and collects food trays and feeds patients requiring help. Transports patients using wheelchair or wheeled cart, or assists patients to walk. Drapes patients for examinations and treatments, and remains with patients, performing such duties as holding instruments and adjusting lights. Turns and repositions bedfast patients, alone or with assistance, to prevent bedsores. Changes bed linens, runs errands, directs visitors, and answers telephone. Takes and records temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates, and food and liquid intake and output, as directed. Cleans, sterilizes, stores, prepares, and issues dressing packs, treatment trays, and other supplies. Dusts and cleans patients’ rooms. May be assigned to specific area of hospital, nursing home, or medical facility. May assist nursing staff in care of geriatric patients and be designated Geriatric Nurse Assistant (medical ser.). May assist in providing medical treatment and personal care to patients in private home settings and be designated Home Health Aide (medical ser.).

GOE: 10.03.02 STRENGTH: M GED: R3 M2 L2 SVP 4: DLU: 89

This tells you what a nurse assistant does. And if you decode the definition trailer (the material in italics), you can learn the physical demands of the job, the language or mathematics development (education and other training time) required, how long it takes to learn the job, and the last time this definition was updated.

The definitions for these codes show the following:

  • The GUIDE FOR OCCUPATIONAL EXPLORATION (GOE) code number, useful in comparing similar jobs, is 10.03.02.
  • Strength factor (STRENGTH) for the job is M or medium.
  • The general education development (GED) for this job is 3 for reasoning, 2 for mathematical development, and 2 for language development.
  • The specific vocational preparation (SVP) is 4.
  • The job description data were last updated in 1989.

The meanings of these codes are:

Medium work is work that requires the following:

Exerting 20 to 50 pounds of force occasionally, and/or 10 to 25 pounds of force frequently, and/or greater than negligible up to 10 pounds of force constantly to move objects. Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for Light Work.

Reasoning 3 requires:

Apply commonsense understanding to carry out instructions furnished in written, oral or diagrammatic form. Deal with problems involving several concrete variables in or from standardized situations.

Mathematical Development 2 requires:

Add, subtract, multiply, and divide all units of measure. Perform the four operations with like common and decimal fractions. Compute ratio, rate, and percent. Draw and interpret bar graphs. Perform arithmetic operations involving all American monetary units.

Language Development 2 requires:

Reading: Passive vocabulary of 5,000-6,000 words. Read at a rate of 190-215 words per minute. Read adventure stories and comic books, looking up unfamiliar words in dictionary for meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. Read instructions for assembling model cars and airplanes. Writing: Write compound and complex sentences using cursive style, proper end punctuation, and employing adjectives and adverbs. Speaking: Speak clearly and distinctly with appropriate pauses and emphasis, correct pronunciation, variations in word order, using present, perfect, and future tenses.

The specific vocational preparation (SVP) of 4 means:

To perform this job a person must have over 3 months, up to and including 6 months, of training in vocational education, apprenticeship training, in-plant training, on-the-job training, or essential experience in other jobs.

From this information, you can determine whether this job qualifies as past relevant work.

In addition, this description may show why you cannot return to it (e.g., inability to lift 50 pounds, inability to stand and walk for extended periods, or inability to tolerate frequent job duty changes and emergencies).

Example of the Use of Materials that Supplement the DOT: Surveillance-System Monitor

The DOT provides the following:

379.367-010 Surveillance-System Monitor (government ser.)

Monitors premises of public transportation terminals to detect crimes or disturbances, using closed circuit television monitors, and notifies authorities by telephone of need for corrective action. Observes television screens that transmit in sequence views of transportation facility sites. Pushes hold button to maintain surveillance of location where incident is developing, and telephones police or other designated agency to notify authorities of location of disruptive activity. Adjusts monitor controls when required to improve reception, and notifies repair services of equipment malfunctions.

GOE 04.02.03. STRENGTH: S GED: R3 M1 L3 SVP: 2 DLU 86

Decoding the definition trailer shows the following requirements:

Reasoning 3 requires:

Apply commonsense understanding to carry out instructions furnished in written, oral or diagrammatic form. Deal with problems involving several concrete variables in or from standardized situations.

Mathematical Development 1 requires:

The ability to add and subtract two-digit numbers, and to multiply and divide 10’s and 100’s by 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Language Development 3 requires:

The ability to read novels, magazines, and encyclopedias. The worker must be able to read safety rules and instruction manuals; have the skills to write reports and essays with proper format, punctuation, spelling, and grammar, using all parts of speech; and possess the ability to speak before an audience with poise, voice control, confidence, and proper English.

The DOT provides some useful information about this job. However, we can also evaluate this job using Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Classifications of Jobs or a similar resource that gives the full range of Department of Labor coding for the job. In that publication we find the following:

This job requires frequent talking, hearing, and near visual acuity. A surveillance-system monitor must have the temperament to perform “repetitive or short cycle work.”

According to the Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs, performing “repetitive or short cycle work” involves “performing a few routine and uninvolved tasks over and over again according to set procedures, sequence, or pace with little opportunity for diversion or interruption.”

A surveillance-system monitor must also work under specific instructions and deal effectively with people. Intelligence, that is, the ability to understand instructions and underlying principles, reasoning, and the ability to make judgments, must be equal to that found in the middle third of the population. This intelligence requirement is a significant difference from most sedentary unskilled work. Likewise, verbal skills, the ability to understand meanings of words and the ideas associated with them and then use them effectively, must be equal to the middle third of the population, also a significant difference from most unskilled sedentary work.

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