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January 12, 2023

Social Security Administration Using Outdated Information in Denials Decisions


Qualifying for disability benefits can be a difficult process. You have to go through the application procedure and undergo an assessment to determine whether your condition qualifies as a disability. There might be multiple denials and appeals. The process isn’t made any easier by the fact that the Social Security Administration is basing its decision on a list of available jobs from 1977.

What Is a Vocational Expert?

As part of the disability benefits approval process, the Social Security Administration brings in what is called a vocational expert. These experts are hired to determine whether there are jobs available that someone applying for disability could still do. They search through a database of available jobs to look for one that can be performed with the disability of the person applying for benefits. If there is a job they could do, the disability benefits are often denied.

The problem is that this list of jobs is outdated and better reflects jobs that were available in 1977.

Why Is an Outdated Vocational List Problematic?

Using an outdated list means that people who need disability benefits may not get them but also won’t necessarily be able to generate income, either. Many of the jobs on that list from 1977 are often now done by machine or have been outsourced overseas. Many just don’t exist at all anymore. In cases where the jobs do exist, they’re typically not available in the numbers that the vocational list claims. For example, the list might indicate that hundreds of thousands of a certain job type are available when in reality that job is obsolete enough that it numbers in the hundreds across the country instead.

If people are getting denied benefits that they need to survive based on the assumption that they can get a job that doesn’t exist anymore, then changes need to be made to the vocational list.

Who Compiled the Vocational List?

The vocational list is officially the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and was put together by the Department of Labor, which stopped using the list itself 31 years ago. This is because the US economy is now more based on information and services than it is based on manufacturing jobs and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles does not reflect that. The Social Security Administration still uses it, however, in making the final decision to either grant or deny disability benefits.

Is there an Updated Vocational List?

The Social Security Administration has been deliberating on how to update the list to better reflect the jobs that are actually available in the United States now since the 1990s. Millions of dollars have been spent to create a vocational list with jobs from the 21st century. Despite this, the SSA has continued to use the outdated list from 1977. The Department of Labor also has its own updated list of jobs that is more reflective of the modern US economy. However, the SSA doesn’t use this, either.

Why Doesn’t the SSA Use a More Recent Vocational List?

The SSA isn’t using a more recent vocational list even though the Department of Labor has one for multiple reasons. There are political reasons as well as changes in leadership that have delayed the process. Some believe that the SSA is purposely delaying using an updated list so that more benefits can be denied and the organization won’t have to pay out as much. At the same time, others think that an updated list might actually prevent even more people from successfully applying for disability benefits because more jobs are sedentary than in the past.

What Can You Do If Your Claim Is Denied?

There is an appeals process for anyone whose claim is denied. Frequently, courts refer denied disability claims back to the SSA so it can adjust its decision because the judges involved are aware of the outdated vocational list on which the decision was based. However, not everyone applying for disability benefits is lucky enough to get an understanding judge. Many applicants don’t even know that appealing the denial is possible, often because they might not have an attorney at all, let alone an experienced social security disability attorney.

If you have had a disability claim denied, speak to our social security attorneys in Florida. We’ll review your case for free and you won’t have to pay a dime unless your case is successful. We’ll help you determine why your benefits application was denied and help you through the appeals process if you have a case. Speak with one of our experienced attorneys today.

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