Not too many social security disability cases make it to the United States Supreme Court, but yesterday, the Court did hear a case and decided against the social security disability applicant.
In Biestek v. Berryhill, the United States Supreme Court denied a proposal to establish a rule requiring vocational experts to turn over the data underlying their opinions in every case. The case stems from Michael Biestek’s attempt to obtain social security disability benefits. At his SSD hearing, a vocational expert testified that Mr. Biestek could do two jobs that existed in substantial numbers in the national economy. Mr. Biestek’s lawyer asked to see the data underlying that opinion, but the vocational expert refused to provide it because the data appeared in client files that contained confidential information. The Adminstrative Judge ruled that the vocational expert was not required to provide the data and heavily relied on the expert’s testimony as he ruled against Mr. Biestek. Mr. Biestek appealed and a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit agreed with the Judge. So, Mr. Biestek’s attorney appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In social security disability cases, the Administration must establish which jobs, if any, the applicant can perform through the testimony of a vocational expert. These experts typically are labor economists or professionals engaged in placing people with disabilities into jobs. During the hearing, the administrative law judge asks them questions about whether an applicant with a hypothetical set of impairments could find work that exists in substantial numbers. Thus, the vocational expert therefore has enormous influence of the case’s outcome. It would make sense that an applicant would want to know the basis of the expert’s opinion. Before the Supreme Court, Mr. Biestek’s attorney argued that a failure to produce the underlying data upon request renders an expert’s opinion inadequate under all circumstances to support a finding of no disability.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and Justice Kagan wrote an extremely narrow opinion holding that an eminently qualified vocational expert might have a good reason not to submit all data underlying the crucial opinion but might otherwise be highly credible.
If you fighting for social security disability benefits, it is important to know that the Social Security Administration will have vocational experts examining whether you can work. Some vocational experts lean in favor of the applicant, but many lean in favor of stating that there work available resulting in the denial of social security disability benefits. It is important that you have the proper documentation to counter the vocational expert’s opinion if it is not supportive of your position.
You should not fight your social security disability alone. Have an attorney help you through the progress. Attorney Matthew Noyes and Lorrie Robinson have authored two books on the social security disability process. If you are in the Tampa Bay, Florida area and would like a free copy of one of their books, click here.