Social Security Announces Significant Change in Disability Benefits – Impact on Beneficiaries Explained

By Ehsteem Arif

Published on:

Joe Biden

For many years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has denied benefits to disabled people based on outdated occupations such as nut sorter and pneumatic tube operator. However, this week marks a significant shift in disability benefits: for the first time in almost 50 years, the SSA will update its occupations database and eliminate 114 positions that have either been replaced by machines or relocated abroad.

This includes jobs like “barrel assembler” and “reptile farmer,” which SSA agents have commonly referenced to reject benefit requests.


Celebrating Disability Pride

In honor of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s enactment more than 30 years ago, July is designated as Disability Pride Month in the US. According to the US Census Bureau estimates for 2021, there are around 42.5 million Americans with disabilities, representing almost 13% of the civilian non-institutionalized population in the United States. This group includes people who struggle with walking, hearing, vision, cognitive function, self-care, or independent living.

The SSA’s Mission

Since its foundation in 1935, the SSA has been actively helping millions of retired workers, survivors, disabled people, and low-income seniors to cover their living expenses and, in some cases, help them fight against poverty. Thanks to its Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, millions of disabled people in the United States receive a monthly payment to cover their expenses, as, due to their disabilities, most of them are unable to work or support themselves financially.


Outdated Occupations List

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles’ list is used to assess a benefit applicant’s employability, which may lead to a denial of benefits based on the claimant’s determination that they are “not incapacitated.” The SSA is now removing 114 positions from the list altogether. The agency also listed 13 DOT jobs whose supporting documentation for a “not impaired” determination has been questioned by federal courts, such as dance hall host, nut sorter, and magnetic tape winder.

New Evidentiary Criteria

Recently, as the federal agency told Newsweek, it will implement more evidentiary criteria for these positions. The Department of Labor first put out the list, but The Washington Post claims that it was shelved decades ago as a result of the economy’s move away from manufacturing jobs requiring physical labor. Nevertheless, the SSA still uses the list in the final phases of the application procedure.


A Forward-Thinking Approach

The SSA underscored that although the agency’s disability determination process remains sound, it is always looking for ways to make it easier for customers to use and to ensure that its disability programs are up-to-date. The agency further stated that it expects this to mean that it will consider only the most relevant occupations when assessing whether an applicant for disability benefits can work in other fields.

Martin O’Malley, commissioner of Social Security, noted, “It makes sense to select professions that are now in extremely small supply within the American economy. Our decision-makers will no longer use these jobs as justification for rejecting disability applications as a result of this change.”


Community Reactions

This move has been praised by many, especially disabled Americans who felt the system wasn’t helping them. However, as some others highlighted, despite the good chance this could help millions of disabled people access the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, the collateral damage this has caused over the years in the disability community may not be as easily undone as the Social Security Administration thinks.

For now, we can all expect that the SSA will implement this change as fast as possible, so new candidates have more chances to qualify for disability benefits across the country. The modernization of the SSA’s job database is a much-needed update, reflecting a more accurate picture of the contemporary job market and better serving the needs of disabled Americans.



How many jobs will be removed from the SSA list?

114 positions are being removed.

Why is the SSA updating its occupations database?

To reflect modern job market realities.


What month is Disability Pride Month?

July is Disability Pride Month.

How many Americans have disabilities?

Around 42.5 million Americans.


What program provides benefits to disabled people?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).


Disclaimer- We are committed to fair and transparent journalism. Our Journalists verify all details before publishing any news. For any issues with our content, please contact us via email. 

Ehsteem Arif

A tax law expert with a knack for breaking down complex regulations into digestible insights. Ehsteem's articles on the tax news blog offer invaluable guidance to readers navigating changes in tax legislation.

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