Nov 13, 2012

Did Michael Astrue Expect Obama To Lose?

     I can't be sure but I'm guessing that Michael Astrue expected a Republican to win this year's Presidential election. I ask myself whether Astrue would have gone ahead with his plan for Social Security to create its own occupational information system to replace the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) if he thought that the Commissioner replacing him would be appointed by President Obama. My answer to that question is "no."
     Figuring out how to replace the DOT has been the most consequential issue that Michael Astrue has had on his plate as Commissioner. Sure, his efforts to deal with backlogs and inadequate budgets have gotten more public attention but the DOT replacement issue will affect Social Security disability determination for decades into the future. Millions of disability claims will be approved or denied because of what is done on this issue.
     I can't be sure but I think the occupational information system project is going back to the drawing board once we have a new Commissioner. The "We'll go it alone and make the DOT replacement say exactly what we want it to say" approach isn't likely to be acceptable to a Democratic Commissioner.  In the end, I expect that the Department of Labor will be asked to take the leading role. I think this result could have been foreseen.
     My best guess is that the only way Astrue's plan could have gone forward was if Astrue's successor was a Republican appointee. Even then, its future would have been uncertain because of the costs and because of concerns about whether the courts would accept it. The "go it alone" approach was a bad decision that has wasted time and money.

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