Social Security announces major change in disability benefits – Here’s how it will affect beneficiaries

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced a significant update to its disability benefits criteria, marking the first change in almost 50 years. This update aims to eliminate outdated occupations from its database, making the process more fair and relevant for disabled individuals seeking benefits. This change, aligned with Disability Pride Month in July, reflects a broader commitment to supporting the 42.5 million Americans with disabilities.

Updating Outdated Occupations

For many years, the SSA has denied benefits to disabled people based on occupations that are no longer relevant, such as nut sorter and pneumatic tube operator. This week, the federal government announced it would be updating its occupations database and removing 114 outdated positions. These include jobs like barrel assembler and reptile farmer, which have been used to reject benefit requests.

Significance of Disability Pride Month

July is celebrated as Disability Pride Month in the United States, commemorating the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act over 30 years ago. According to the US Census Bureau estimates for 2021, there are around 42.5 million Americans with disabilities, making up nearly 13% of the civilian non-institutionalized population. This group includes individuals with difficulties in walking, hearing, vision, cognitive function, self-care, or independent living.

Social Security Administration’s Role

Since its foundation in 1935, the SSA has played a crucial role in supporting millions of retired workers, survivors, disabled individuals, and low-income seniors. The SSA’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides monthly payments to disabled people who are unable to work or support themselves financially.

Changes to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) list has been used to assess a benefit applicant’s employability. This list will see the removal of 114 positions, which will no longer be used to deny benefits. Additionally, 13 DOT jobs, such as dance hall host, nut sorter, and magnetic tape winder, have been questioned by federal courts and will now require more evidentiary criteria.

Implementation and Impact

The SSA aims to implement more evidentiary criteria for these positions. The Department of Labor first released the list, but it was shelved decades ago due to the economy’s shift away from manufacturing jobs. Despite this, the SSA has continued to use the list in the final stages of the application process.

Ensuring Up-to-Date Disability Programs

The SSA emphasizes that while the disability determination process remains robust, it is always seeking ways to improve and ensure its programs are current. The agency plans to focus on the most relevant occupations when assessing disability benefit applications. According to Martin O’Malley, Commissioner of Social Security, the SSA will no longer use outdated jobs as a reason to deny disability applications.

Reactions to the Update

This move has been welcomed by many, especially disabled Americans who felt the system was not adequately supporting them. However, some caution that while this change could help millions, the damage caused over the years may not be easily undone. The SSA aims to implement this update quickly to increase the chances of new candidates qualifying for disability benefits.

The SSA’s decision to update its occupations database is a crucial step towards a more fair and relevant disability benefits system. By removing outdated jobs and focusing on current, relevant occupations, the SSA aims to better support the 42.5 million Americans with disabilities.

While this change is a significant improvement, it is essential to recognize that the damage caused by past practices may take time to heal. Nonetheless, the update is a positive move towards a more inclusive and supportive system for disabled individuals across the country.


What is the SSA’s recent update about?

The SSA is updating its occupations database, removing 114 outdated jobs used to deny disability benefits.

Why is this update significant?

It marks the first major change in almost 50 years, aiming to make the benefits process fairer for disabled individuals.

How many Americans have disabilities?

Approximately 42.5 million Americans, or nearly 13% of the civilian non-institutionalized population, have disabilities.

What is the SSA’s SSDI program?

The SSDI program provides monthly payments to disabled individuals who cannot work or support themselves financially.

What are some of the outdated jobs being removed from the SSA’s list?

Jobs like nut sorter, pneumatic tube operator, barrel assembler, and reptile farmer are being removed.

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