Apr 15, 2015

SRRT Jobs Disappearing

     From the Wall Street Journal:
The American labor market and middle class was once built on the routine job–workers showed up at factories and offices, took their places on the assembly line or the paper-pushing chain, did the same task over and over, and then went home.
New research from Henry Siu at the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich from Duke University shows just how much the world of routine work has collapsed. The economists released a paper today, published by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, showing that over the course of the last two recessions and recoveries, a period beginning in 2001, the economy’s job growth has come entirely from nonroutine work. ... 
In the late 1980s, routine cognitive jobs were held by about 17% of the population and routine manual jobs by about 16%. Today, that’s declined to about 13.5% and 12%.
     What does this have to do with Social Security? A high percentage of people applying for Social Security disability benefits have low cognitive abilities as well as other physical or mental impairments. Often, these people are denied Social Security disability benefits based up a finding that work involving only "simple, routine, repetitive tasks" or SRRT is available that they can do. The SRRT category is also often used to deny people who have normal cognitive abilities but who have psychiatric problems. I've always thought that questionable since psychiatric problems mostly affect the ability to show up for work, get along with other people and concentrate upon the job at hand, all of which have little to do with the complexity of the work being performed but, rightly or wrongly, SRRT is used as a catchall category for many people with psychiatric problems. However, as this study shows, the SRRT jobs are disappearing. You can't "cure" low cognitive abilities in adults with education or training. It's a fixed limitation. If SRRT jobs are disappearing, Social Security ought to be approving more people limited to SRRT.


Anonymous said...

I'm very curious...what should the definition of disability be for Social Security? You, and many others here, seem to think SSA has it all wrong did that far too few people qualify for the benefits they need. Who should and shouldn't qualify? Where do you draw the line? Aren't you always denying someone who thinks they should qualify? How much of the population on disability is acceptable?

Anonymous said...

@6:27 AM

I think you are misunderstanding Charles's point in posting this article. I believe he is not arguing that the standards are too strict, but rather that the standards are not being applied as written/intended. In particular, that denials based on availability of work are not based on work that he believes is actually available.

Given the apparently uncontested fact that SSA relies on outdated vocational reference material, and the substantial disputes about the expertise of the vocational experts the agency's adjudicators rely on, he seems to be arguing a reasonable position.

Anonymous said...

All I have to do is find what I consider to be a significant number of any job in the national economy. We are not totally out of SRRT jobs.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're correct. But it seems like any kind of proposed changes are always met with such hate. It's no secret that SSA's guidelines for many things are old send outdated. Some changes would be beneficial to some claimants while others wouldn't. We can just revise the parts that make it more compatible for claimants, we have overhaul everything so the system can work going forward.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, 8:56 is correct. "Significant numbers," as defined by SSA, is in reality, not very significant. Although SSRT jobs are disappearing, they are still "significant" so as to used to beat a disability claimant.

Although I understand that the line has be drawn somewhere, these types of denials have no basis in the "real world." When my less than high school educated, 48 yr old claimant with herniated L/S discs (but no surg)or other orthopedic concerns and a depressive disorder is limited to SRRT sedentary work by the ALJ and denied benefits, this person has no hope of sustaining, let alone finding, such a job in today's economy.

Anonymous said...

You can make a case for a lot of people couldn't you? Someone will always be left out. What you might consider a mild condition, the person with the condition feels it's severe. There's never going to be a true line...but what's the correct balance?

Anonymous said...

I get that, 10:38. I practice in a large Midwest rustbelt city that was just leveled in the last recession. The typical claimant I describe above is someone I speak with daily. When I turn them away explaining that they must prove that they can't perform even a simple assembly or parking lot attendant-type job to qualify, they always exclaim that no such jobs exist near them or that no one would hire them for such a job, even if they could find it. That's just the reality and my bleeding-heart tendencies feel bad for this group of people I see who are largely out of options.

Anonymous said...

I believe the answer has to start with $$$. "Disability" is strictly an administrative concept. For anyone found disabled, there is another person with the exact same pathology and severity who is working and is not "disabled". Disability is not a platonic form which exists "out there", it is a decision we make. That is why some countries have a 3% "disabled" population and others have a 5% "disabled population. I believe the first question we need to answer in developing rules for disability it how much money we wish to spend. Once we answer that question, we can devise rules to achieve the desired outcome.

Anonymous said...

10:51, I am the Judge that posted above. Trust me, you are right. However, we are constrained by the dicta of SSA. They are bouncing back reversals at an exceedingly high rate. we are being monitored. I know there are no jobs, you know there are no jobs, but what can we do? If you can't get legislation to change, and I can't get the Agency to change the claimant's will continue to suffer.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your candor, 10:51. I'm not advocating moving the goalposts. In this environment, I'm just hoping to sustain the status quo. Charles's post reiterates what those of us in disability-trenches see daily: there is a significant portion of the population that is losing opportunities either with available employment or govt assistance.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see how the authors of the study define "routine" and the examples they give; many of the occupations they cite are what we would deem skilled or semiskilled:

"What are routine occupations? In the field of economics, these refer to jobs that involve a limited set of tasks. More importantly, those tasks tend to be “rule based,” in that they can be performed by following a well-defined set of instructions, and require minimal discretion.

For example, production occupations are a prime example of routine manual jobs: jobs that are both rule based and emphasize physical (as opposed to cerebral) tasks. As examples, factory workers who operate welding, fitting, and metal press machines fall into this category, as do forklift operators and home appliance repairers. Similarly, office and administrative support occupations are routine cognitive jobs that focus on rule based “brain” (as opposed to “brawn”) tasks. These include secretaries, bookkeeping and filing clerks, mail sorters, and bank tellers."

Lance Koontz said...

What are you people talking about ?
Are you referring to SSI or SSDI ?

Even if a 48 yr old claimant with herniated L/S discs (but no surg)or other orthopedic concerns and a depressive disorder is limited to SRRT sedentary work by the ALJ and denied benefits.

Being grossly obese and putting off much needed surgery on his back is not a disability.

I have a sister in law who fits this description and she is only 33 years old and way too young to be on disability payments.

She was only gainly employed for
ten years and she is making $700
a month SSI payments for her and her autistic kid.

To make a long story short my brother got himself a job paying about $27000 a year and his
salary was above and beyond
SSA's outside income limits.

He was crying about his wife's
SSI check being massively offsetted because SSI is means tested.

He really would really have SOMETHING to cry
about if the SSA continued to
send him raw unoffsetted checks.