The Social Security Administration Determines Whether You Are Entitled to Disability Benefits Using a Reference Created in 1977

Published on: February 13, 2023

Imagine being unable to work because of a disability. After paying into the system for decades, you apply for Social Security Disability benefits. After waiting what seems like forever, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) schedules your hearing, and in attendance is a vocational expert (VE).

During the hearing, the ALJ asks the vocational expert whether you can do any jobs in the local economy. The VE responded that you can work as a nut sorter, a dowel inspector, or an egg processor. These jobs no longer exist in most places in the United States.

The VE even explained to the ALJ that there were 130,000 jobs available processing eggs, sorting nuts, and inspecting dowels. And based on this testimony, the ALJ ruled against you and concluded that there was work available within your limitations, which precluded the Judge from ruling in your favor.

Why did the VE testify this way? He used the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), a resource last updated in 1977.

This is a true story that appeared recently in The Washington Poston December 27, 2022, which reported that “The Department of Labor, which originally compiled the index, abandoned it 31 years ago in a sign of the economy’s shift from blue-collar manufacturing to information and services.” Despite the realities, the Social Security Administration still relies on the DOT, as it is colloquially called.

The Social Security Administration does not make it easy for anyone to get Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The application process has multiple confusing steps and generally takes years. To make matters worse, the Social Security Administration is still using the DOT from over 45 years ago to determine whether a person seeking disability benefits is actually disabled.

The Social Security Administration is supposed to be updating this list of occupations – but nothing has been completed yet. This is why it is essential to have an attorney representing you when you apply for SSDI or SSI benefits. When a vocational expert says you can do an outdated job, you need an advocate to explain to the ALJ that the job no longer exists and to fight for your right to benefits.

Our office represents individuals seeking Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits. You can call our office at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get and keep the benefits you need.