Americans with disabilities often face challenges in accessing the benefits they need. One of the biggest obstacles is the outdated Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), which the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine eligibility for disability benefits.
The DOT was created in 1938 and last updated in 1991. It lists thousands of occupations, but many of these jobs no longer exist or have changed significantly since the DOT was created. This means that many people who are unable to work in the current economy are being denied disability benefits because they do not meet the DOT’s outdated standards. Cases are routinely denied because a person could perform the job of wedding envelope addressor, eye glass lens inserter, microfilm operator, and pneumatic tube operator.
The SSA’s effort to create its own data source has cost at least $250 million since 2012, yet the agency still relies on the outdated index. Despite the efforts of the SSA to create a new occupational data source, it is still unclear when it will be available.
In a recent interview, Maria Town, the president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said that while data is hard to come by on exactly what percentage of denials occur based on these outdated jobs, it’s still an issue that concerns advocates like her. There are probably thousands of denials that occur based on these inaccurate job titles and the lack of an update to this dictionary of titles. “This whole process is so fraught and really riddled down with misguided assumptions about the nature of disability and the nature of work that, again, I think it’s really hard to have data that pinpoints where a denial occurred,” Town said.
The SSA needs to update the index it uses to decide whether someone could find work. The SSA’s efforts to create its own data source have cost at least $250 million since 2012, but the agency still relies on the outdated index. Disability advocates are concerned that thousands of denials occur based on these inaccurate job titles, and the lack of an update to this dictionary of titles leads to misguided assumptions about the nature of disability and the nature of work. The SSA needs to use updated job titles to determine whether a person can find work in the current job market, and not rely on a tool that the agency that created it doesn’t even use anymore.