The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) is the overall baseline reference for the Social Security Administration Vocational Expert. Whether you use the DOT in hardcopy format (good luck since it’s out of print – you can go to Amazon and buy one for $900+) or whether you use the data contained within the DOT via an electronic source of information such as a software program from SkillTRAN, LLC known as Job Browser PRO or OccuBrowse isn’t really the issue – the issue really comes back to understanding what the DOT is and why the SSA uses this as the source reference for occupational information and data.
The ‘why’ it comes down to is verifiable information. The DOT was recognized as a source of verifiable information and used over many years as part of the security administration’s disability determination process.
In the SSAVE handbook there is a direct reference that talks about the DOT and the testimony of an SSAVE.
According to SSR 00-4P, the SSA references the DOT as the overall baseline of information… however the Social Security message also goes on to allow for the fact that the DOT contains information about most – but not all – of the occupations that currently exist in the national economy. In fact, the growth of occupations surrounding the Internet (as a singular data point) has greatly outpaced the actual information contained within the DOT… and a lot of the terminology really doesn’t translate between 1991 and the year 2020.
There are allowances for that, however, as the SSA recognizes that the DOT doesn’t meet all occupational growth requirements. This means that you need to be prepared as an SSAVE to list the ‘Why” according to your professional opinion, as in “Why” you strayed from the DOT as a source material. This really means that you just need to be prepared to defend your answer. If it’s in accordance with the DOT, your answer already meets the regulations of the Social Security Administration in the decision that the administrative law judge will make as far as overall underscoring of determination. However, if you stray from the DOT and you insert professional opinion as a supporting data point then you need to be prepared to list the resource that you used to come up with your answer in testimony.
Each of these documents introduces the overall publications that you can rely on during your tenure as an SSAVE, starting first and foremost with the DOT. Each also goes on to introduce county business patterns, census reports, occupational analysis, and then the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Last but not least, each document refers to you – the SSAVE – and then other specialists who can actually present applicable testimony along the way.
Finally, the reason why we still use the DOT is because it is the best in force at today’s date.
This fact doesn’t mean it’s right and it doesn’t mean DOT referral will go on forever. In fact, occupational information is continually changing. In fact, SSA is actually in the process of developing the Occupational Requirement Survey (ORS). This resource may actually replace the DOT as that primary source of occupational information throughout the disability process. The goodness of the ORS is that it will be a collection of occupational data from various sources that will go into a platform proprietary to Social Security Administration and broadly look at and describe occupations across the national economy – in combination with other inputs.
These inputs will expand beyond the DOT information and include descriptions of basic mental and cognitive requirements and then ensure that that overall survey gets completed on a continual basis so that we don’t run into 24 years of static data. You can find out the plan here.
You’ll see these other inputs during future iterations of Stroud Academy through our discussions covering organizations such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ORS itself, O*Net and the crosswalk, and then data from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
So short answer to a long question…do you have to learn the DOT? Yes…
But the caveat to that answer is you need to understand that usage of the DOT is going to change. Regardless of that future option, the use of the DOT is still enforced today and is the first and foremost basis of your testimony when responding the hypotheticals.
We will continue this series to help you get to the next level of applying the DOT or whatever iteration follows next week.