In order to address the question of whether an applicant is capable of returning to work performed within the past 15 years, the ALJ will generally call a VE to testify. The VE is usually a licensed professional counselor, a vocational rehabilitation specialist, or another professional whose career has involved job placement, career counseling and working with people with disabilities. Although the VE is called by the ALJ, the VE is neither a government nor an applicant’s witness. The VE’s task is to offer a neutral opinion based on (1) the evidence and (2) the ALJ’s determinations as to the applicant’s functional limitations. The VE reviews the documents in the file which pertain to work, e.g. detailed earnings record, disability report, and work history report. The ALJ will create a hypothetical for the purpose of eliciting the VE’s opinion on the applicant’s capacity to return to past work (Step 4) or perform other work in the national economy (Step 5). For more information on cross examining the VE, please contact Pam Heine at the SOAR TA Center, firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more here: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/hallex/I-02/I-2-6-74.html.
For the second question, the job must exist in significant numbers in either the national or local economy, where the applicant lives. Read more at https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/public_experts/Vocational_Experts_(VE)_Handbook-508.pdf.