At the end of a Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) hearing, the ALJ typically poses a series of hypothetical questions to a vocational expert (who can appear at the hearing in-person or by telephone) to determine whether or not there are any jobs available to the Claimant based on the alleged impairments. However, and significantly, in order for the testimony of a vocational expert “to constitute substantial evidence, the ALJ must pose a hypothetical question which comprises all of the Claimant’s impairments. Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1227 (11th Cir. 2002); see also, Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1229 (11th Cir. 1999).
In Vega v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 265 F.3d 1214 (11th Cir. 2001), the Claimant asserted that the ALJ’s hypothetical question was not complete because it “failed to mention her headaches, medication history, significant memory or concentration problems, fatigue, wrist pain, and dizziness.” Id. at 1220. The Eleventh Circuit agreed, holding that the “ALJ should have included these complaints in the hypothet”ical question posed to the [vocational expert].” Id. In other words, the ALJ must pose a hypothetical question to the vocational expert which comprehensively describes the Claimant’s impairments. Pendley v. Heckler, 767 F.2d 1561, 1563 (11th Cir. 1985); see also, McCloud v. Barnhart, 166 F. App’x 410, 419 (11th Cir. 2006). However, an ALJ only has to include limitations determined to be credible and relevant. Chapman v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 498 F. App’x 952, 953 (11th Cir. 2012). An ALJ is not required to include findings in the hypothetical that the ALJ [has] properly rejected as unsupported.” Crawford v Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). The question, then, is if the limitations caused by a Claimant’s medical condition are credible, relevant and supported. Chapman, 498 F. App’x at 953; Crawford, 263 F.3d at 1158. The job of the Claimant’s representative, then, is to make sure the medical record reflects that the limitations are just that – credible, relevant and supported.
For more information about SSD claims, contact a Dalton Social Security Disability lawyer at McMahan Law Firm, LLC. We provide trusted, reputable legal representation to locals in Dalton and all surrounding neighborhoods.