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Social Security administers disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In determining disability claims for adults, Social Security may have to evaluate whether a person can adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. To make this determination, the agency considers a person’s capacity to do work-related activities, as well as consider their age, education, and work experience.

When making a finding of “not disabled,” for the purpose of benefit eligibility the agency must support the finding with evidence that an individual can adjust to work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. The agency uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and its companion publication, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles, as reliable sources of information about such work.

On June 22, 2024, the agency published new public guidance and instructions about these changes. The agency anticipates that, as a result, it will only consider the most relevant occupations when determining if someone applying for disability benefits could perform other types of work.

Under the final rule, beginning June 22, 2024, when determining past relevant work, the agency will review only five years of past work. The previous policy required people to provide detailed information about 15 years of work history, which was difficult for individuals to remember and often led to incomplete or inaccurate reporting. Also, the agency will no longer consider past work that started and stopped in fewer than 30 calendar days. The new rule makes it easier for people applying for benefits by focusing on their most recent relevant work activity while still providing enough information to continue making accurate determinations.