Monday, August 21, 2017

The Future of the O*NET for SSA Adjudication

Those of us paying attention know that the Dictionary of Occupational Titles is obsolete and out-of-date.  Here is what the Department of Labor says about the DOT.
The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) was created by the Employment and Training Administration, and was last updated in 1991.
 SSA continues to use the DOT.  So do a few agencies within Labor.  But SSA is moving to a new tool, the Occupational Information System (OIS).  The Project states:
The Department of Labor (DOL) has not updated the DOT since 1991. In the summer of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finished collecting the first year of occupational data that we will use in the new OIS and started collecting the second year.  We will have our first complete set of occupational data in 2019 after BLS completes the third year of data collection. 
 We are 26 years from the advent of the O*NET and SSA continues to reject it.  In pursuit of an update for the DOT, SSA states:
  1. Why are you developing a new occupational information system (OIS)?  Why can’t the Department of Labor (DOL) update the Dictionary of Occupational Tiles (DOT), or why can’t you use the Occupational Information Network (O*NET)?

    • The Department of Labor (DOL) developed the DOT in the late 1930s to match jobseekers to jobs.  For almost 50 years, the DOT has been our primary source for occupational information.  The DOL discontinued updating the DOT in 1991, and replaced it in 1998 with another job placement tool, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).  We studied whether O*NET could take the DOT’s place in our disability adjudication process but found it does not describe the physical requirements of occupations at the level of detail needed for claims adjudication. 
Which brings up back to the current question -- will SSA incorporate all the O*NET that describes the requirements of work outside the physical specificity into a new OIS?  Here is part of the vision of the OIS per SSA:
The OIS will combine the BLS data with information from the DOL Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and Military Occupations from the Military Occupational Classification (MOC) into a web-based, publicly available, information technology (IT) platform that will filter and sort the data as needed to adjudicate disability claims. 
SSA continues to state that the O*NET need modifications to be useful for disability adjudication.  
By integrating O*NET elements into the OIS, we avoid duplicating work already done by DOL. The new OIS will classify occupations using the O*NET Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC), and will use O*NET task lists, tools and technology, lay titles and other elements.
When the OIS rolls out on an internet-based platform, the O*NET will form an integral part.  So will the components of the Occupations Requirements Survey.

The only real problem with the O*NET is that it never addressed the lifting/carrying/pushing/pulling of work.  It addresses sitting, standing, walking, and a host of other useful data about work.  Get used to the O*NET now.  The OIS will marry the O*NET and ORS into a stable platform that will iron out some of the misinformation spread by vocational experts in the current paradigm.


  1. "The Department of Labor (DOL) developed the DOT in the late 1930s to match jobseekers to jobs". This sounds a lot like what sites like,,, and many others do. The difference between what the DOL does and current job seeker match sites, is the apparent issue with being outdated. You've mentioned many occupations that no longer exist, but they are still listed because at a point in time, the DOL created a survey that transferred to job numbers. Wouldn't the new OIS essentially have the same problem? Maybe, the most viable job listing companies should be considered in the search to find a current and accurate work force climate. After all, isn't SSA trying to make more private BLS information/data more publicly available?

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