Sep 17, 2007

Social Security Wasting Money On Beltway Bandits With Conflict Of Interest

The results of a study commissioned by Social Security and done by and SSDC on "Use of Functional/Vocational Expertise" is now available. Like almost every one of these studies done by the so-called "beltway bandits"it is stunningly vague and presents no workable ideas, much less any practical plan.

What is particularly galling about this report is the involvement of SSDC, a company which is involved in representing disability claimants before the Social Security Administration, an obvious conflict of interest. Why would SSDC seek this contract? Why would Social Security give them a contract when they have an obvious conflict of interest?

Undoubtedly, Social Security would have liked some idea of how they can cope with the fact that disability determination at Social Security is based upon the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), yet the DOT is hopelessly outdated and its replacement, the O*NET, is completely unworkable for Social Security. Probably, this was the main reason this study was commissioned. This study hardly discusses this issue. Here is what it does recommend:
Make a gradual and orderly retreat from relying exclusively on the Dictionary of Occupational titles (DOT) and DOT-based methods and tools for addressing the questions of Step 5. Allow both internal and community-based mFV experts to use (and defend the use of) supplementary or alternative approaches to describing functional job requirements, determining feasible occupations, and estimating job prevalence when they believe that the DOT information is either obsolete, incomplete, not applicable, or missing. Require that such methods and tools be based on the most solid evidence practically available and widely accepted by organizations nationally-recognized in their field. For example, utilize tools currently in wide use by vocational experts such as The Occupational Assessor by Economics Research Institute ( or Choices by Bridges ( Fund the development of specialized tools that will (a) support comparisons of non-exertional functional limitations with job demands, and (b) more fully describe the nature and prevalence of sedentary and light occupations and actual jobs in today’s economy.
If you are a Social Security official, how do you implement this nonsense? How do you make a "gradual and orderly" retreat from the DOT when you have nowhere else to go? Where are the other sources of information on the availability of sedentary and light occupations in the economy? The sources they suggest are completely unworkable and they know it. The only way to support the current method of disability determination at Social Security is to completely redo the DOT from scratch, which might cost more than a billion dollars and, even then, a new DOT would probably demonstrate the near complete disappearance of unskilled sedentary employment and a dramatic reduction in unskilled light employment in the United States, a result which would result in dramatically more claimants being approved for Social Security disability benefits. The authors of this study did not want to recommend this, nor did they want to recommend that Social Security go back to Congress or completely rethink disability determination, so they come up with this nonsense, collected their money and walked away.

I can suggest only one reason why Social Security keeps wasting money on this sort of study. Social Security officials order these studies when they do not know what to do and just want to put off making a decision.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If SSA had a dollar for every dollar they have wasted on useless studies such as this, they could have probably made much more significant progress in reducing the disability backlogs.