What is the DOT that the VE referred to?

by Editorial Board on December 13, 2010 · 2 comments

in Past Relevant Work (Step 4),Capability to Work (Step 5),Vocational or Work Issues

DOT stands for “Dictionary of Occupational Titles”.  The DOT is a government survey by the Department of Labor, who created it to provide job information to government agencies, job seekers, and educational and training institutions.  The DOT contains over 12,000 job descriptions.  Each description gives an estimate of the mental and physical demands, skills, traits, and length of training needed for that particular job.

The last updates to the DOT were made in 1991 and the DOT is considered to be obsolete, even by the Social Security Administration.  Social Security is making an effort to find a replacement, but has made little progress so far.  The DOT continues to play a major role in how Social Security decides disability claims.

The jobs experts that testify in disability hearings are called Vocational Experts or “VEs”.  VEs use the DOT for three purposes: (1) to categorize the work you have done, (2) to determine if skills from your past work could be transferred to other work, and (3) to answer judges’ questions about other work you might be able to do.

Social Security regulations require that disability judges ask the vocational expert if their testimony is consistent with the DOT.  VEs are allowed to give testimony that differs from the DOT, but they must explain why they disagree with it.  Usually VEs just follow the DOT, but some will add information gained from their own experience studying jobs or helping place individuals into jobs.

If the VE’s testimony suggests you can work then the judge must be persuaded that the VE is wrong.  The simplest way to do this is to show that the VE’s testimony doesn’t match with the information in the DOT.  Even though VEs bring copies of the DOT into the hearing, they still sometimes make statements that are just plain wrong under the DOT.  In order to make this kind of attack you need to bring a copy of the DOT to the hearing and know how to use it.  Many disability attorneys and VEs use laptop computers to access DOT information quickly during the hearing.

Some job descriptions in the DOT date back to 1977.  Pointing out how the DOT has failed to keep up with reality can persuade a judge to reject VE testimony.  Also, you can submit other documentation to show that the DOT job description is now outdated.  You can get written descriptions of the job requirements from actual employers.  You can also submit job descriptions from other publications accepted by Social Security.  There are three officially recognized sources other than the DOT: the Occupational Outlook Handbook, County Business Patterns, and the Selected Characteristics of Occupations.

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