Social Security relying on outdated occupational directory despite $250M outlay for new database

Agency reportedly denies thousands of disability claims per year based on supposed availability of jobs in obsolete occupations of yesteryear listed in antiquated directory still in use.

Updated: January 14, 2023 - 11:06pm

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just The News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.

Despite spending $250 million so far on a new, modernized occupational database, the Social Security Administration continues to rely on a 45-year-old directory listing obsolete jobs to deny Americans' disability claims, according to reports.

The SSA has "spent $250 million since 2012 to build a new directory of 21st century jobs, with the cost expected to reach $300 million," according to government waste watchdog OpenTheBooks.com.

In reviewing disability benefit claims, the SSA continues to consult the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which was last updated in 1977. The agency may deny Americans benefits if it deems them capable of working in occupations listed in that directory. Unfortunately, many of the listed occupations — like sorting nuts, inspecting dowels, and processing eggs — have given way to automation, yielding far fewer, if any, job opportunities today. 

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the Labor Department, has built a new, interactive system for Social Security using a national sample of 60,000 employers and 440 occupations covering 95 percent of the economy," The Washington Post reported. "But Social Security still has not instructed its staff to use it."

The SSA continues to rely on the database with jobs like "Document Preparer, Microfilming," "Telephone Quotation Clerk" and "Nut Sorter" to deny thousands of  disability claims a year, according to the outlet.

Other defunct job titles in the directory include: "Call-Out Operator," "Film Touch-Up Inspector," "Sack Repairer," "Tube Operator" and "Polisher, Eyeglass Frames." 

"While the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) has been an available source, we also use vocational experts to provide more current, additional information about the jobs available in the national economy," an SSA spokesperson told Just The News. "We are working on how to best incorporate occupational information that BLS continues to update and expand."