Social Security disability benefits are being denied to some people due to outdated labor market data, The Washington Post reported.
Some claimants are told they are not eligible for disability payments because they still can work. However, the jobs cited no longer exist, the Post reported Tuesday.
The vast majority of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles' 12,700 entries were last updated in 1977.
The Department of Labor originally compiled the dictionary, but abandoned it 31 years ago as the economy shifted from blue-collar manufacturing to information and services, the Post reported.
Nevertheless, Social Security and its $200 billion disability system that provides benefits to 15 million people still rely on the dictionary at the final stage when a claim is reviewed.
"To date, the best available source for occupational information has been the Dictionary of Occupational Titles," Social Security Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said in a statement to the Post.
"We have enlisted vocational experts to provide more detailed and current information about the jobs available in the national economy, while we continue to work on creating our own occupational data source informed by BLS [the Bureau of Labor Statistics] that best reflects the current job market."
The guide includes 137 unskilled, sedentary jobs that, in reality, were offshored, outsourced, shifted to skilled work or disappeared altogether.
One 47-year-old claimant, who had suffered two debilitating strokes, was denied benefits after being told he could find work as a nut sorter, a dowel inspector or an egg processor — jobs that essentially no longer exist in the U.S., the Post reported.
"It's a great injustice to these people," Kevin Liebkemann, a New Jersey attorney who trains disability attorneys, told the Post. "We're relying on job information from the 1970s to say thumbs-up or thumbs-down to people who desperately need benefits. It's horrifying."
Social Security officials during the past 14 years have promised that a new, state-of-the art system representing the modern-day job market would soon be available.
"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," the Post said
"Social Security has estimated that the project’s initial cost will reach about $300 million, audits show."
The Post reported that the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has built a new, interactive system for Social Security using a national sample of 60,000 employers and 440 occupations covering 95% of the economy.
However, Social Security has not instructed its staff to use the system.
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