The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) contains brief descriptions of 12,741 occupations. There is a close link between the DOT and Social Security regulations. The DOT provided the definitions of exertional and skill levels in the regulations; and the grids, the individual charts based on exertional levels in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, are based on the numbers of unskilled DOT occupational titles at each level of exertion.

Vocational experts are expected to be familiar with the DOT. The Social Security Administration relies on the DOT and other publications, even though the DOT is out of date (it was last revised in 1991). The Department of Labor has stopped revising the DOT and is replacing it with the O*Net, which has virtually no useful information for disability determination using the current sequential evaluation process.

The Social Security Administration has told decision-makers that when making disability decisions, they are not to rely on the O*Net.

In addition, a Social Security regulation provides that if vocational expert testimony conflicts with the DOT, the ALJ must obtain a reasonable explanation and set forth in the decision how the conflict was resolved.

Physical Exertion Levels

The classification of physical exertion levels used by the Social Security Administration is the same as in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. However, the work levels published by the Department of Labor in the DOT have changed since the Social Security regulation was first published. The work levels stated in the Social Security regulations, which coincides with earlier editions of the DOT, may be summarized as follows:

Dictionary of Occupational Titles Table 1

Sedentary jobs involve sitting; walking and standing are required occasionally. When walking or standing are involved to a significant degree, the job is classified as light even when the weight lifted is negligible. A job is also classified as light when it involves sitting most of the time with a degree of pushing and pulling of arm and/or leg controls.

The 1991 revised edition of the DOT uses different definitions of exertional levels, which recognizes that constant lifting increases the exertional level. These newer definitions may be useful in cases where your client’s past relevant work required constant lifting.

Dictionary of Occupational Titles Table 2

Occasionally: activity or condition exists up to 1/3 of the time.
Frequently: activity or condition exists from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time.
Constantly: activity or condition exists 2/3 or more of the time.

*The definition of Light Work used in the 1991 Revision includes the following notation:

Even though the weight lifted requirements may be a negligible amount, a job should be rated Light Work when it requires:

  1. walking or standing to a significant degree; or
  2. sitting most of the time but entails pushing and or pulling of arm or leg controls; and/or
  3. working at a production rate pace entailing the constant pushing and/or pulling of materials even though the weight of those materials is negligible.

DOT Specific Vocational Preparation and Skill Level

Social Security regulations define unskilled work as work that a person can usually learn to do in 30 days.

The DOT sets forth training time for jobs called “specific vocational preparation” or SVP, which is the time it takes to develop the facility for average performance on the job. The different SVP levels correspond to the Social Security Administration’s definitions of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled work in the following chart:

Dictionary of Occupational Titles Table 3

There are relatively few SVP 1 occupations found in the DOT. Here are the numbers of SVP 1 and SVP 2 DOT titles by exertional level (including the numbers of semi-skilled and skilled DOT occupational titles by exertional level):

Dictionary of Occupational Titles Table 4.