Sawyer Consulting
Dependable Expertise for Positive Results

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have additional questions, please contact Julie Sawyer-Little.


Depending on the evaluation of each case, the Vocational experts can be designated as testifying expert or a consulting expert. Consulting experts are retained to review the file and medical records, provide research or information regarding the case, and/or review the opinions provided by a designated expert on the opposing side.

A testifying expert is retained to provide an evaluation and opinions of the case in written or oral form. The majority of the times the testifying expert will be expected to explain and defend their opinions at a deposition or trial. It is not uncommon for the forensic vocational expert to be retained in a consulting role and later be identified as a testifying expert.

Vocational experts provide an independent, objective assessment of an individual's physical or mental limitations to provide an opinion regarding their ability to be competitively employed.

In analyzing the case, the Forensic Vocational Expert will review the individuals medical records, physician statements or guidelines regarding limitations, employment records, job descriptions (past work), etc. These documents along with a clinical intake interview serve as important components to evaluate vocational parameters. Areas for consideration and analysis include the individual's education, past relevant work, transferable skills, and labor market research. These components assist the Forensic Vocational Expert in determining whether jobs exist and the individual has the capability to return and perform gainful work activity.

Generally, the vocational consultant serves as a vital role when the "any occupation" disability standard applies.

There are circumstances in which a formal vocational evaluation can serve as a vital component in assessing the case. The vocational evaluation would include a clinical intake interview to obtain information regarding the individual's educational and work background.

In some situations, the assessment may include administration of standardized tests to evaluate the individual's aptitudes, academic achievement level, vocational interests, and work values. All of this information is summarized to provide recommendations on the individuals training and employment capabilities.

Vocational experts have received specialized training in the area of work and impact of disability. Typically, these individuals are designated as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and may hold additional certifications or licenses in related fields of study.

These individuals have received specialized training and experience in vocational assessment/testing, job task analysis, transferable skills analysis, labor market surveys, career development, knowledge of the availability of jobs, and an understanding of the emerging and phasing out of different occupations.

Vocational experts in Social Security Hearings are present to provide objective testimony in the area of work. It is important to realize that the Administrative Law Judge is the final decision maker and may or may not rely on the vocational testimony. In these hearings the Administrative Law Judge will ask the vocational expert to classify and describe the claimants past relevant work and respond to hypothetical questions. The questions posed may or may not lead to example occupations which the "hypothetical" individual could perform.

Traditionally, the vocational expert is requested to evaluate the spouse (displaced homemaker) who has not worked outside of the home for a variety of reasons. The reasons for not being gainfully employed can include being a full-time home manager, full-time caregiver to a child with special needs, or a disability which prevents them from sustaining competitive employment. Due to the nature of the situation, employment and earning capacity directly impact the economic aspects in evaluating and resolving alimony and child support issues.

Vocational experts have received training and experience in vocational assessment/testing, job task analysis, transferable skills analysis, labor market surveys, and career development. They have knowledge of the availability of jobs and an understanding of the emerging or phasing out of different occupations. Additionally, the vocational expert identifies the earning capacity (hourly and/or annual salary) based the area (city or region) in which the spouse resides. This is an important component which serves as a guideline to assist both parties and the judge in deciding on the amount of spousal support to be granted.

The main role of the vocational expert in workers' compensation is to formulate an objective and unbiased opinion as to the employability, wage earning capacity, and barriers to employment an individual holds through an individualized assessment and evaluation process. Vocational experts are retained by both the Plaintiff and/or Defense Attorney (or Insurance Carrier) to provide opinions on employability and placeability. As part of the return to work process, the expert may be actively involved in assisting the injured worker in job placement and locating work consistent with their limitations.

Yes, the forensic vocational expert would evaluate and complete a clinical intake interview to obtain important vocational information. Important areas to consider in evaluating the displaced spouse would include; educational attainment, work history, transferable skills (skills acquired through working), physical/mental limitations (if any), etc. The vocational expert would provide a report outlining recommendations and/or opinions regarding the opportunity to return to work in the competitive work force. Recommendations could include retraining, updating skills, and/or alternative vocational opportunities.

A life care plan is a dynamic document based on recognized standards of practice, comprehensive assessment, and research which outlines current and future needs of the injured individual. The plan provides specific recommendations and associated costs of these goods and services. Each plan is individualized to the injured party and serves as a critical document in outlining specific needs and projected costs. The plan provides information in an organized manner to assist in successfully resolving the claim.

Examples of areas which may be addressed in the Life Care Plan include; medications, diagnostic testing, adaptive equipment, attendant care, transportation, home modifications, vocational training, etc.

A certified life care planner is an individual who has completed a minimum of 120 hours of specialized training and successfully passed the examination. Individuals who hold this certification are required to remain current in the field with continuing education. Individuals are required to complete 80 hours (8 of these in ethics) of continuing education within a 5 year timeframe to maintain their life care plan certification.

This training provides vital information regarding Life Care Planning methodology, standards of practice, vocational impact and planning, etc. Prior to taking the examination, individuals are required to complete a life care plan or be supervised for one year by a Certified Life Care Planner. The examining and certifying agency is the International Commission on Health Care Certification.

In general, a displaced homemaker is an individual who is unemployed and has not worked outside the home for a substantial number of years. These individuals have provided full-time unpaid services in the home to their children, spouse, family members, etc. Typically, this becomes an important consideration when the couple files for a divorce and the individual needs to return to competitive employment. The forensic vocational expert is paramount in evaluating the individual's past relevant work educational attainment, and transferable skills to develop a return to work plan.

The forensic vocational expert can assist in providing a comprehensive assessment of damages related to the impact of an injury or accident. Depending on the injury and resulting limitations, the forensic expert may provide both a vocational assessment and life care plan. The vocational evaluation (assessment) will provide opinions regarding an individual's ability to return to work, wage loss, retraining costs, etc.

The Life Care Plan or Assessment, outlines specific medical needs the individual may require based on the injury and resulting limitations. Both of these components provide critical information in determining the value of the case to prepare for mediation, arbitration, or trial.