ADA Definition & Dictionary of Occupational Titles

Is the ADA Definition of “Disability” the Same?

The objectives of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Social Security Act’s (SSA) disability provisions are very different, and their definitions are not interchangeable. For example, the term “disability” is used in the ADA in connection with whether a person is capable of performing “major life activities.” In the SSA, the term relates to a person’s ability to perform a job.

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) summarizes nearly 13,000 jobs. Vocational experts are expected to be familiar with the DOT even though it hasn’t been updated since 1991. In fact, a Social Security regulation states that if the DOT conflicts with a vocational expert’s testimony, the ALJ must figure out the discrepancy and include in the decision a discussion of how he or she resolved the conflict.

The DOT and Social Security regulations are closely aligned, with the same definitions of exertional and skill levels. In addition, the grids (the individual charts in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines) are based on the amount of unskilled DOT occupations at each exertion level.

The Department of Labor no longer updates the DOT. The Department has replaced it with the O*Net, which is of no value for SSA disability determinations pursuant to the sequential evaluation process now in use. The SSA has advised decision makers not to base disability determinations on the O*Net.

For a free evaluation of your particular claim, contact Denver disability lawyer John Cimino.