A recent article in the Washington Post brought much-needed light to the Social Security Administration’s practice of using an obsolete job listings publication to deny disability benefits to claimants.
Social Security uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, containing thousands of entries that haven’t been updated in more than 40 years. Many of the jobs – including those like “nut sorter” and “addresser” that are being used to deny benefits – have become automated, sent offshore, or simply no longer exist in modern times.
“It’s a great injustice … horrifying” said Kevin Liebkemann, a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) who was quoted in the article. NOSSCR’s President David Camp added that Social Security won’t take steps to “clean up the system” because it would result in more claimants receiving help—claimants who may have found work in the 1970s but are now faced with a different economy lacking the same unskilled sedentary full-time jobs.
The article reports that:
“For the last 14 years, the agency has promised courts, claimants, government watchdogs and Congress that a new, state-of-the art system representing the characteristics of modern work would soon be available to improve the quality of its 2 million disability decisions per year.
“But after spending at least $250 million since 2012 to build a directory of 21st century jobs, an internal fact sheet shows, Social Security is not using it, leaving antiquated vocational rules in place to determine whether disabled claimants win or lose. Social Security has estimated that the project’s initial cost will reach about $300 million, audits show.”
NOSSCR’s position is that Social Security should already be using current data about the modern economy, not allowing adjudicators and contracted witnesses to pretend that nothing has changed since before the computer age. 30 years is an unacceptably long period for Social Security to continue “deliberating,” especially when the information is readily available from the Department of Labor.