Identification Number:
Originating Office:ORDP ODP
Title:Updated OccuBrowse Launch and 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: 11/01/2023

A. Purpose

      The Office of Media and Logistics Management (OMLM) launched an updated version of
      OccuBrowse in the SSA Digital Library on November 1, 2021. Although the screens may look slightly different than the previous version of OccuBrowse, navigation through the tool is essentially unchanged.

      This Emergency Message (EM) explains changes in the OccuBrowse tool (in section C) and provides guidance for policy-compliant use of occupational information from Digital Library electronic tools, generally (in section D). Guidance in this EM supersedes Disability Determination Services (DDS) Administrators’ Letter 713 and Q&A 09-026 Rev 2, which have been archived. This EM also supersedes and rescinds the November 3, 2017 Chief Judge Memorandum titled “Use of Electronic Occupational References – UPDATE.”
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) and 416.966(d)) of the sequential evaluation process.
    1. OccuBrowse: This program is searchable through a series of tabs along the top. 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). On the “Browse” page, they can perform searches based on keywords within the job title, within the task description, or within both. This program also allows searches by a variety of other lists such as industry, Guide for Occupational Exploration (GOE), or occupational group, all of which can be useful when performing a transferability of skills analysis (TSA). 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. Once you make the selection for Job Browser Pro, the Citrix StoreFront brings up a page of Apps from which you can select 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. The advanced search, which is found on the opening page with the Job Title and Description Keyword, also allows searches by a variety of other lists, such as GOE or occupational group. All these searches can be useful when performing a TSA.

    3. OASYS: This program can also be accessed in the SSA Digital Library through the Citrix StoreFront page and selecting the OASYS App. This tool contains much of the same functionality as OccuBrowse but with a different user interface. It can perform a wide variety of searches.

      NOTE: We remind DDS and SSA adjudicators, vocational specialists (VS), and vocational experts (VE) that these references are useful tools, but they do not replace SSA policy or adjudicative judgment and decision-making. For example, OASYS is useful in suggesting potential occupations for 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. Changes to the updated OccuBrowse

      There are no changes to how DDS adjudicators, Federal disability adjudicating components, VSs, VEs, Decision Writers, and Administrative Law Judges use OccuBrowse at steps four or five of the sequential evaluation process. Most of the changes have little or no effect on navigating in OccuBrowse.

The following is a list of the changes:
        1. Search: Once an occupation has been selected, all the tabs at the top of the page remain the same except for an additional tab for Skills/Competencies and a slight variation of the “Employment Numbers” tab, which is now called “Labor Market Info.” The changes in the Search option are as follows:
          · There is a “Quick Tour” button at the top of each screen that, when selected, brings up a Pocket Guide to DOT and a Quick Tour Video. The Pocket Guide is available to view, but SSA users should only refer to this guide as a source for abbreviations and definitions of strength, physical demands, and environmental conditions. SSA does not use General Education Development (GED), Aptitudes, and frequency counts or percentages in adjudication. The Quick Tour Video (and all other Help videos) is disabled for SSA users because the instructions do not comply with our policy. We will post an updated video on demand for OccuBrowse in an upcoming Disability Topics.
          · List page: The previous version of OccuBrowse indicated when there was a SkillTRAN Alternate Title searched. The updated version does not. The list page displays the DOT code, Title, Industry, Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP), Strength, and the related Occupational Information Network (O*NET) code.
          · Requirements page: The items on this page are listed in a different order. You no longer must scroll up and down as all the items on the lists are visible. There are no other changes.
          · Skills/Competencies page: This is a new page that shows the Work Field and GOE Work Group with descriptions of the skills and abilities required for the selected occupation. While the list of skills and abilities may be helpful in thinking through the TSA process, there is no change to the requirements for using the claimant’s description of past relevant work as actually performed before determining any skills the claimant might have gained doing skilled or semiskilled work. Reminder: SSA does not consider “abilities” in a TSA.
          · Codes page: Occupational Group Arrangement (OGA) and OOH are new additions under Related Codes. No other changes were made.
          · Labor Market Info page (formerly Employment Numbers): This page lists occupational information including the National Employment Numbers, Mean Wage, Hourly Wage, and Annual Wage from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. See section D.2.a. below for agency policy regarding labor market information provided in occupational tools.
        2. Worker Trait Search: The functionality for the worker trait search has not changed but the factors are now grouped into four categories:
          · Physical & Environment (Strength, Physical Demands, Environmental Conditions)

            Use these to determine the demands of work.

          · Mental-Cognitive (Work Situations – Temperaments, Work Functions – Data-People-Things (DPT))

            Do not use any of the functions under Mental-Cognitive. We do not use Temperaments (what the software tool manufacturer calls work situations or situations) or DPT (what the software manufacturer calls work functions) to determine the demands of work.

          · Skills & Abilities (SVP, GED, Aptitudes)

            Only use SVP to determine the demands of work. SSA does not consider GED or Aptitudes to identify the demands of work for disability adjudication in SSA’s disability programs.

          · Transferable Skills (Work Fields – WF, MPSMS – Materials, Products, Subject Matter, Services)

          SSA does not consider the descriptors of GED, Aptitudes, Work Situations (Temperaments), or Work Functions (DPT) when searching for a person’s past work or when limiting work demand requirements for a search of occupations for a TSA or occupations to cite for a framework determination or decision. We should not use these features since our policy does not use these descriptors to identify the demands of work for disability adjudication in SSA’s disability programs.

          Exception: The middle three digits of the DOT code are part of DPT, so you may use these codes to help search for other occupations that might use the claimant’s skills when doing a TSA.
        3. Browse by Occupational Groups
          The appearance of the screens has changed but the functionality remains the same:

          · As with the Search by Keywords or DOT Code in the Search category, under the List tab, the updated version shows the DOT code, in addition to the Title, Industry, SVP, Strength, and O*NET Code.
          · The number of matches is no longer shown on the screen. For example, when choosing DOT Designated Industry Codes- Agriculture Equipment, the screen on the previous version showed “21 matches for the search of 121 Agricultural Equipment.” The updated version of OccuBrowse does not provide the number of matches.

D. 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). These references are useful tools, but they do not replace SSA policy or adjudicative judgment and decision-making. While they 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 with 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 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 readily usable in our adjudication process. The data is not as specific as the DOT and is not associated with individual DOT occupations. However, adjudicators may use O*NET coding to search for similar DOT occupations for a TSA assessment. See DI 25015.017.

      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 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. 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.

            · Occupations DOL developed but did not publish. SkillTRAN products include 21 additional occupations and two revised occupations* developed by the DOL that were not published in the 1991 DOT. These non-DOT occupations are:

            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*

      *079.262-010 was assigned a code in the 1991 DOT (079.267-010) that is not in OccuBrowse.
      *169.167-090 was assigned a code in the 1991 DOT (075.167-014) that is not in OccuBrowse.
            · Occupations developed for SkillTRAN. SkillTRAN also includes a small number of privately developed occupations. The last three digits of each of these occupations begin with the number “9” to distinguish them from DOL-developed DOT codes. The SkillTRAN codes are:
            SkillTRAN “DOT” Code
            Geotechnical Engineer
            Actuary Consultant
            Computer Programmer / Analyst
            Internet Systems Operator
            Forest Ecology Coordinator
            Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (Insurance)
            Vocational Evaluation Specialist
            Emergency Room Physician
            Medical Case Manager
            Health Data Analyst
            Information Systems Auditor
            Marketing / Sales Manager
            Resume Developer / Writer
            Manager, Water Resources
            Assistant Manager
            Convenience Store Manager
            Roman Catholic Priest
            Protestant Minister

      Direct all program-related and technical questions to your Regional Office (RO) support staff or Program Service Center (PSC) Operations Analysis (OA) staff. RO support staff or PSC OA staff may refer questions, concerns, or problems to their Central Office contacts.

      OHO personnel should direct questions through the office’s management chain. Regional staff may direct questions about this matter to the Division of Field Procedures in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge.

EM-21065 - Updated OccuBrowse Launch and Guidelines for Using Occupational Information in Electronic Tools - October 29, 2021