Identification Number:
EM-21065 REV
Originating Office:ORDP ODP
Title:Guidelines for Using Occupational Information in Electronic Tools
Type:EM - Emergency Messages
Link To Reference:See References at the end of this EM.
Retention Date: 12/05/2024

Revision Statement: We are updating this emergency message (EM), including the title, to improve clarity, remove dated information about the 2021 OccuBrowse launch, and incorporate other information about using the OccuBrowse tool from our training materials.

Summary of Revisions:

    · Removed information about the CITRIX platform for SkillTRAN tools because the Digital Library now hosts web-based versions.
    · Removed information about new features added to the OccuBrowse tool in 2021 because the OccuBrowse User Guide and OccuBrowse Video on Demand (VOD) are now available through the A-Z Disability Training Index.
    · Removed information about a list of occupations developed for SkillTRAN because these occupations were removed from new web-based applications for SSA.
    · Added references to our regulations and updated references to POMS.
    · Reworded some information to improve clarity.
    A. Purpose
    This Emergency Message (EM) provides guidance for policy-compliant use of occupational information from Digital Library electronic tools.

    B. Background
    In making disability determinations, SSA relies primarily on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) (including its companion publication, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations (SCO)) for information about the requirements of work in the national economy. The SSA Digital Library hosts three searchable databases developed by SkillTRAN for the DOT. Adjudicators may use these tools to help make an assessment at step four (see 20 CFR 404.1560(b)(2) and 416.960(b)(2)) or step five (see 20 CFR 404.1566(d), 404.1568(d)(2), 416.966(d), and 416.968(d)(2)) of the sequential evaluation process.

      1. OccuBrowse: Users can access this program in the SSA Digital Library. Upon opening the OccuBrowse program, the “Browse” tab allows users to search for occupations in multiple ways. Through the “Worker Trait Search” button, users can search for occupations at any skill level that are within a claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Users can also perform searches based on keywords within the job title, within the task description, or within both. This program also allows searches by using a variety of other lists such as industry, Guide for Occupational Exploration (GOE), or occupational group. After locating an occupation, users can find all DOT/SCO information on the “Description,” “Requirements,” and “Codes” tabs.

      2. Job Browser Pro: Users can access this program in the SSA Digital Library. In Job Browser Pro, users can search by job title, DOT code or keyword(s) within the title, and task description. After selecting an occupation and clicking “Details,” users can find all DOT/SCO information on the “Quick View – Codes” button and in the “Requirements” tab. As in OccuBrowse, there are many browse groups that provide different ways of exploring occupational groups. Users may also do searches using a variety of other lists, such as GOE or occupational group.
        3. OASYS: Users can also access this program in the SSA Digital Library. This tool contains the same functionality as OccuBrowse and Job Browser Pro. It can perform a wide variety of searches.

          NOTE: We remind DDS and SSA adjudicators, vocational specialists (VS), and vocational experts (VE) that while these references are useful tools, they do not replace SSA policy or adjudicative judgment and decision-making. For example, OASYS is useful in suggesting potential occupations for citation in a Transferability of Skills Assessment (TSA) but cannot be relied upon to produce results that conform to SSA policy. It may include occupations that SSA would not consider acceptable in a TSA search or exclude reasonable possibilities for a TSA. The adjudicator, not the tool, must make the final determination about whether skills are transferable in accordance with SSA policy.

      C. Policy for considering information from occupational data tools.
          OccuBrowse, Job Browser Pro, and OASYS contain DOT and SCO occupational information developed by the United States Department of Labor (DOL). This information is useful, but it does not replace SSA policy or adjudicative judgment and decision-making. While the DOT and SCO are acceptable sources of occupational information for adjudicating disability claims, they also contain (1) information that must not be used in disability adjudication because our rules and
          subregulatory guidance do not permit it and (2) information of which we do not take administrative notice.
          1. SSA does not consider the following information:
            · General Education Development (GED) ratings. These ratings do not correspond to SSA’s regulatory definitions of unskilled, semiskilled, and skilled work.

            · Aptitudes and Work Situations (Temperaments). These ratings do not represent functional requirements for work because they reflect the personal interests, natural abilities, and personality characteristics of job incumbents rather than occupational requirements that adjudicators must consider when assessing the vocational impact of limitations or restrictions resulting from a medically determinable impairment(s), as is required for SSA’s disability programs.

            · O*NET information. The information in O*NET has been grouped in such a way that it is not generally usable in our adjudication process. The data is not as specific as the DOT and is not associated with individual DOT occupations.

          2. Obtain VS or VE evidence before relying on any of the following content:
            a. Labor Market information.

              Federal agencies now publish labor market information by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. Those with vocational expertise use various approaches to arrive at informed estimates of numbers of jobs that exist within a DOT occupation. Results may differ given the method used for the estimate. We have not reviewed and do not specifically endorse the SkillTRAN proprietary algorithm.

            b. Occupations that were not published in the 1991 DOT and SCO. Some SkillTRAN products include 21 additional occupations and two revised occupations (*last two in the chart below) developed by the DOL that were not published in the 1991 DOT. While a VS or VE could provide evidence that considers an occupation not published in the DOT, adjudicators must be careful not to take administrative notice of SkillTRAN content added after 1991 when the DOT was last updated. Additionally, adjudicators must elicit a reasonable explanation for any conflict between the VS or VE evidence and the DOT before relying on the VS or VE evidence to support a determination or decision about whether the claimant is disabled, see DI 25015.030. These non-DOT occupations are provided for reference in the following table:
            Occupations DOL developed but did not publish
            Unpublished DOT Code
            Geographic Information System Specialist
            Microscopist, Asbestos
            Telecommunications Specialist
            Movement Therapist
            Specimen Processor
            Medical Record Coder
            Employment Training Specialist
            Media Buyer
            Media Planner
            Provider Relations Representative
            Meeting Planner
            Compliance Officer
            Bereavement Counselor
            Health Services Coordinator
            Case Manager
            Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) Servicer
            Mini Bar Attendant
            Tanning Salon Attendant
            Reuse Technician
            Solar Film Installer (Automotive Svcs.)
            Overhead Door Installer
            Utilization-Review Coordinator*
            Quality Assurance Coordinator*
      D. Questions
      Direct all program-related and technical questions to your Regional Office (RO) support staff or Chief Administrative Law Judge.
          OAO personnel should direct questions through their management chain. Managers may direct further questions to the Executive Director’s Office.
      E. References
        · 20 CFR 404.1560, 404.1566, 404.1568, 416.960, 416.966, and 416.968
        · SSR 00-4p: Titles II and XVI: Use of Vocational Expert and Vocational Specialist Evidence, and Other Reliable Occupational Information in Disability Decisions
        · SSR 82-41: Titles II and XVI: Work Skills and Their Transferability as Intended by the Expanded Vocational Factors Regulations Effective February 26, 1979
        · DI 25003.001 Vocational Specialists
        · DI 25015.030 Use of Vocational Expert and Vocational Specialist Evidence, and Other Reliable Occupational Information in Disability Decisions—SSR 00-4p
        · DI 25025.030 Support for a Framework “Not Disabled” Determination
        · HALLEX I-2-5-48 Vocational Experts - General
        · HALLEX I-2-5-57 Obtaining Vocational Expert Testimony Through Interrogatories
        · HALLEX I-2-6-74 Testimony of a Vocational Expert

      EM-21065 REV - Guidelines for Using Occupational Information in Electronic Tools - 12/5/2023