I-2-5-57.Obtaining Vocational Expert Opinion Through Interrogatories

Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-118)

A. General

As noted in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-5-30, it is generally preferred that an administrative law judge (ALJ) obtain vocational expert (VE) opinion at a hearing because live testimony provides the opportunity to ask the VE any questions material to the issues, including questions that arise for the first time during the hearing. However, there are circumstances in which it is more appropriate to obtain a VE opinion through written interrogatories.

An ALJ can use written interrogatories at any point in the adjudication process. A claimant or appointed representative may ask the ALJ to obtain interrogatories, or the ALJ may decide to use them on his or her own initiative.

NOTE:

When the ALJ receives new evidence after the VE provides an opinion, see HALLEX I-2-5-60.

B. Preparing Interrogatories

When preparing interrogatories, the ALJ will:

  • Phrase each interrogatory in a way that will not suggest any specific conclusion but will elicit a clear and complete response that can ultimately be expressed (to the extent possible) in lay terms. (See sample interrogatories in the Document Generation System (DGS));

  • Ensure each interrogatory is case specific and tailored to the facts of the individual case at issue;

  • Include any interrogatory needed to identify or address possible conflicts in the record regarding vocational issues. (See Social Security Ruling (SSR) 00-4p: Titles II and XVI: Use of Vocational Expert and Vocational Specialist Evidence, and Other Reliable Occupational Information in Disability Decisions);

  • If applicable, include any interrogatory that is appropriate for a VE response to assist the ALJ in evaluating the effects of mental impairments on a claimant's ability to work. (See SSR 85-15: Titles II and XVI: Capability To Do Other Work- The Medical-Vocational Rules as a Framework for Evaluating Solely Nonexertional Impairments);

  • Leave sufficient space between the questions for the answers.

C. Information To Send With Interrogatories

1. Document Generation System (DGS) Letter

The ALJ will send the interrogatories to the VE with a letter explaining the request and the requested method of response. A template for the letter can be found in DGS, as noted in HALLEX I-2-5-95. The letter will include all identifying information and request a response within 10 days. A copy of the letter must be associated with the claim(s) file and exhibited.

2. Copy of Exhibit List and Pertinent Evidence From the File

The ALJ will send the VE the following information:

  • A copy of the exhibit list;

  • Any evidence pertinent to vocational issues from the claim(s) file;

  • A transcript or summary of any pertinent testimony provided in an earlier hearing;

  • A statement of the issues in the case; and

  • A copy of the VE's professional qualifications (for verification).

NOTE:

Do not include the professional qualifications of any other sources.

If the claim(s) file is electronic, the ALJ will send the information on a compact disc. If the claim(s) file is paper, the ALJ will send photocopies of the information. For more information, see also hearing office electronic business process (eBP) sections 3.3 and 5.1.

3. Invoice

The ALJ will send a copy of the expert call order for signature by the VE. See also eBP sections 2.3, 3.3, and 5.1 for additional guidance on preparing expert call orders.

4. Contact Information

The ALJ, or designated staff, will provide the VE the name and telephone number of a hearing office contact if the VE has any questions.

Additionally, the ALJ or designated staff must provide the VE with a self-addressed, postage paid envelope large enough for the VE to return all enclosures.