We are developing a new Occupational Information System (OIS) that will replace the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) as the primary source of occupational information used in our disability adjudication process.  The Department of Labor (DOL) has not updated the DOT since 1991. In the summer of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finished collecting the first year of occupational data that we will use in the new OIS and started collecting the second year.  We will have our first complete set of occupational data in 2019 after BLS completes the third year of data collection.  BLS will immediately begin a new data collection cycle that will allow us to update the OIS at regular intervals.

BLS calls the data collection effort the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS).  In 2012, BLS started testing the feasibility of using the platform of the National Compensation Survey (NCS) to collect the occupational information we need. Following three years of successful testing and improvements to the survey and methods, BLS began production data collection. 

In 2016, we worked with a contractor to develop a prototype for the IT platform to house the OIS, and we worked with a multi-component intra-agency workgroup to test and refine it.  We also initiated discussions with our Usability Team.  The Usability team will ensure that the Vocational Information Tool (VIT), the operational name for the IT platform, complies with the agency’s internal and external business design requirements.

To learn more about the 2012-2015 testing activities and background information, visit the OIS Project History page.

Our Vision for the New OIS

Once completed, the new OIS will provide updated occupational information measured and defined in a way that meets our program needs.  The OIS will define work as it is generally performed in the national economy.  We also plan to expand on the DOT’s information by including descriptions of the basic mental and cognitive requirements of work once testing of these elements has been completed.  The OIS will combine the BLS data with information from the DOL Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and Military Occupations from the Military Occupational Classification (MOC) into a web-based, publicly available, information technology (IT) platform that will filter and sort the data as needed to adjudicate disability claims. Ultimately, the OIS will help the agency meet its strategic goal of improving the quality and accuracy of its disability determination process. 

In the past, we stated we could not use O*NET for disability adjudication without significant modifications.   The BLS data provides the critical detailed physical requirements of work that we need but O*NET does not provide, and will allow us to use publicly available O*NET data sets. By integrating O*NET elements into the OIS, we avoid duplicating work already done by DOL. The new OIS will classify occupations using the O*NET Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC), and will use O*NET task lists, tools and technology, lay titles and other elements.

Enhancing Occupational Data with Mental and Cognitive Work Demands 

The DOT contains discrete and well-established descriptions of the physical demands of occupations, but it does not provide information on the mental and cognitive requirements. Our work with BLS allows us the unique opportunity to include descriptions of the mental and cognitive requirements of work in the new OIS.

To ensure that BLS collects the mental and cognitive data elements that are most useful in disability adjudication, we contacted disability program experts for help. We organized an internal workgroup of disability vocational policy experts and contracted psychiatric and psychological consultants to identify the mental and cognitive occupational descriptors that we need to adjudicate disability claims.  We started with a long, all-inclusive list of job requirements and worked it down to a manageable and collectible set.

BLS started testing the collection of the new mental-cognitive elements in 2014. Following testing, we responded to feedback from BLS field economists who collect the data and worked with BLS to revise the questions.  Testing and refinement of the mental and cognitive questions continued in 2015 and 2016.  We are proceeding cautiously with these questions to capture information about basic mental and cognitive work requirements most critical for our needs, and to ensure that BLS field economists and employers who they interview understand the questions and scaled responses.  The initial rollout of the OIS might contain only the physical requirements of occupations, which is the same information the DOT contains, and we will add the mental and cognitive requirements later.

We made significant progress with the mental and cognitive survey questions and are confident that testing will conclude shortly. Currently, BLS is collecting information about the following basic mental-cognitive work requirements:

  • Independent judgment
  • Work review
  • Work pace and the worker’s ability to control pace
  • Changes in tasks, location, and work schedule; and
  • Frequency and nature of work-related personal interactions

What’s Next?

BLS will publish data from the first year of production data collection in December 2016.   The data will include estimates of the types of jobs in the U.S. economy. As previously mentioned, the agency will not use the data in its adjudication process until we have a complete set of data following three full years of collection.  We will use the first year of production data to continue testing and improving the VIT, with help from our IT contractor. Our aim is to make the VIT an efficient and user-friendly front-end tool that adjudicators will use to apply the new occupational data. 

In 2017, we will analyze the production data and identify areas of regulation and policy that we may need to revise before we can implement the new occupational data in the disability adjudication process.  We developed the OIS to support current policy and do not anticipate needing major policy changes.  We will work with internal agency stakeholder components to begin planning for rollout and training. 

In FY 2018, we will have 2 years of production data and will continue to conduct studies on the use of the data in our disability program.  This testing will allow us to expand our efforts to a larger set of targeted end-users in preparation for national implementation. 


In 2016, BLS conducted research into the shelf life of occupational data to help us identify an appropriate update cycle that will keep our OIS current while maintaining cost efficiency.  Ongoing data collection by BLS will be necessary to keep the occupational descriptions current, and this will be the biggest driver for lifecycle costs.  We will use the results of the BLS research and analysis of the production data to determine an appropriate lifecycle. 

More Information

For more information regarding the development of the OIS, please contact us at ordes.ois@ssa.gov.