The Washington Post has an excellent article this week by reporter Lisa Rein, entitled “Social Security denies disability benefits based on list with jobs from 1977.” You should read the article in its entirety.
The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), published by the U.S. Department of Labor, is used by Social Security as the basis for the “vocational” data used when making a Medical-Vocational determination at Steps 4 and 5 of the disability sequential evaluation.
Social Security takes administrative notice of “reliable job information available from various governmental and other publications,” including the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1566(d).
As the article explains, the DOT has not been updated since 1991, and some of the jobs listed in it date back to 1977. Most of the jobs listed are obselete, and the remaining ones have changed markedly since 1991. It is fundamentally unfair to deny a claim for disability benefits based upon jobs data that is over 30 years out of date. But it happens every day.
Of course, this is not news to those of us who specialize in this area of practice. I have had to explain to clients many times why claims were denied based upon jobs that no longer exist. It is intensely frustrating, particularly for the clients.
It is good to see this injustice exposed to the broader public by the national press. But we are years away from any change to this system, unless U.S. Circuit Courts beyond the 7th Circuit, which has been a leader in this area, finally bring an end to the practice.