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Why SSA Cannot use O*NET in its present form

In its 2010 review of the first 10 years of the O*NET program, the National Research Council published: A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

Citation: National Research Council. 2010. A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Chapter 8 of this book (available for purchase or for free download here: is a review of why the Social Security Administration (SSA) is NOT able to use the O*NET in its present form. On page 160, Sylvia Karman cited 4 separate government studies that "both SSA and DOL acknowledge that O*NET cannot be used in SSA's process" and/or "recommend that SSA investigate other alternatives."

Note that SSA had already convened the Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel (OIDAP) in late 2008 to begin to explore options available to SSA. Details on the work of that committee are available at

OIDAP was ended in 2012 and a 3-year exploratory contract with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey (NCS) program was begun to explore the feasibility of collecting occupational data directly from employers. The effort became know as the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS), with full details here:

At the conclusion of the initial 3 year study, SSA engaged the NCS to conduct the first wave of data collection during fiscal years 2016-2018. Initial results were published in 2017 and 2018. Final results were published in 2019 for 347 distinct SOC groups (of the 820 civilian SOC groups). This survey covered about 83% of all employment nationally (compared to the Occupational Employment Survey (OES) statistics).

Because of difficulty in collecting the mental/cognitive factors needed by SSA (due to poor wording of the questions), both the questionnaire was revised and the employer sampling strategy was modified to use the staffing patterns reported by employers as collected in the OES program. The second wave of data collection using this new strategy began in 2019 and will continue through 2023. The final "second wave" data set will not be available until 2024, and it will be based on the latest Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2018 system.

SkillTRAN began showing ORS data in its products in late 2019. The data is available in Job Browser Pro - Version 1.7 PC and Web version as well as in the OASYS Web product. In July 2020, SkillTRAN added preliminary ORS 2019 data, which often includes mental cognitive factors. The preliminary 2019 data set (introduced in Spring, 2020) is now based on the SOC 2018 classification system and includes only 205 SOC groups. Future data will also be considered "preliminary" until final release of the second wave data set in 2024.

SSA has NOT YET officially made any policy changes regarding the use or acceptability of ORS data in its disability adjudication processes. It would be difficult to deny its acceptance since SSA is funding its collection! Vocational experts and claimant representatives who choose to use this new ORS data should cite the new source of this data when it is used to inform the administrative law judge (ALJ) in any SSA disability hearing. It is up to the ALJ to use or disregard this data source in the decision process, which is not Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) based data.

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