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Vocational Expert Testimony: The Dictionary of Occupational Titles

Vocational experts are present at every Social Security Disability hearing. Their job is to not only classify your past relevant work, but to also testify as to what jobs are available in the national economy. Often their testimony at the hearing may be difficult to understand due to the legal terms or other Social Security specific terms being used in their testimony.

This blog post is specifically dedicated to the “Dictionary of Occupational Titles.” It is important to note that The Dictionary of Occupational Titles is generally shortened to “DOT” when referred to in the hearing.

The DOT was basically created as a national standardized job database which lists specific jobs as well as their physical and mental requirements. The vocational expert will be asked to classify your past work based on your work history report and testimony. They will consider your duties you performed and the physical requirements of the job. Physical requirements involved often include how much time you spent walking/standing versus sitting during the 8-hour workday as well as what the heaviest amount of weight you were required to lift on that job.

Once the vocational expert has all the necessary information, they will turn to the DOT to find a job that fits that description and physical requirements. The job title listed in the DOT may differ from what your exact job title was.

The job listed in the DOT comes with a DOT code, exertional level, and skill level. For example, if you worked as a grocery store cashier, the DOT would classify that as Cashier-Checker DOT code 211.462-014 with an exertional level of medium and semi-skilled. Vocational experts also use the DOT to find jobs available in the economy when an individual has specific physical and mental requirements. For example, the judge may pose a hypothetical question which includes an individual who can stand/walk 6 hours out of an 8 hour day, sit 2 hours, lift 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds, and occasionally climb stairs. Based on those limitations, the VE is able to find jobs in the economy which fit those limitations in the hypothetical.

However, it is important to note that the DOT has not been updated since 1991. Therefore, this can cause some issues with whether certain jobs still actually exist in our ever changing technology based world. Therefore, it is crucial you work with an experienced attorney to understand how the vocational expert testimony and DOT may come into play at your Social Security Disability hearing.

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