When was the last time you saw a job posting for a nut sorter, addresser or bran mixer? Probably not recently, as jobs like these are now either obsolete or performed by machines. Unfortunately, these are the types of occupations that the Social Security Administration (SSA) could call out to keep you from collecting disability benefits.
Outdated occupational guides
If you are seriously injured or ill to the degree that your condition is disabling, one of the elements that the SSA uses to determine eligibility is whether you can perform your job or, critically, any job. For this assessment, they refer to a list of about 12,700 occupational categories the Department of Labor created.
However, this Dictionary of Occupational Titles is far from perfect. Many entries are obsolete; others do not have a significant number of jobs available. Some experts claim that the list includes roughly 200,000 job titles that are no longer realistic options.
Sadly, too often, the SSA determines that a person is technically fit to fulfill these jobs and denies a claim, which can be devastating. Imagine learning that you cannot collect benefits because the SSA says you can still perform a job like inspecting dowel pins. Is that actually a reasonable – and available – option? Chances are it is not.
Can’t someone update the list?
The most obvious solution to eliminating outdated positions and making the list of occupations more reflective of the 21st-century workforce would be to build a directory of modern jobs.
Unfortunately, more than $250 million has already been put into this solution without an effective option, and Congress sets aside about $30 million per year to conduct modern job surveys. In 1998, the DOL developed O*NET as a new database of jobs, but the consensus was that it did not have enough characteristics of jobs that disabled individuals could perform.
In recent years, efforts to design a modern system have hit several roadblocks, from political clashes to conflicts over dubious claims.
Thus, the agency continues to use antiquated guides for the crucial decisions regarding disability benefits workers need today.
How this can affect you
What all this means is that the SSA could deny your claim for benefits citing obsolete occupations. If this happens, talking to an attorney about appealing the decision right away can be crucial.