The Composite Jobs Rule can materially affect the Social Security Disability / SSI claim evaluation process. The technique employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. These five steps are discussed in detail over in the OBF Knowledge Base, but as a brief summary these five steps ask:
1) Is the Claimant working?
2) Is the medical impairment severe?
3) Is the medical impairment severe enough to be considered a Listing Level Impairment?
4) Can the Claimant return to Past Relevant Work (PRW)?
5) Is there other work that the Claimant can perform?
If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that a Claimant suffers from a severe, yet not listing level impairment, an analysis of PRW will be conducted at Step 4. If the SSA determines that an individual can return to PRW as actually performed by the Claimant or as generally performed, then the claim for benefits will be denied. Avoiding such a denial may be aided by the Composite Jobs Rule.
What are Composite Jobs?
Analysis of PRW is a pivotal portion of the claim evaluation process, and individuals whose work involved multiple roles or responsibilities may be able to avoid a denial at Step 4 by proving that their job was a composite job. SSR 82-61 defines a Composite Job as a job that has, “significant elements of two or more occupations and, as such, have no counterpart in the DOT [Dictionary of Occupational Titles].” POMS DI 25005.020B lends additional insight to what comprises a Composite Job, notably the requirement that multiple DOT occupations be required in order to account for the main duties of the PRW. This POMS further states that because a Composite Job does not have a DOT counterpart, it should not be evaluated at Step 4 “as generally performed in the national economy.”
Avoiding a Step 4 Denial
What this means for Claimants is that if a Claimant establishes that their PRW is a Composite Job, and is ruled to be unable to perform the Composite Job as they previously performed it, there is no way for the Claimant to be denied as being able to return to the job as it is “generally performed in the national economy”. This is in strict contrast to analysis of PRW that is described using a single DOT code (not a Composite Job). For those jobs, a Claimant must be able to demonstrate that they can neither perform this PRW as they actually performed it, nor can the perform the job as generally performed.
Using the Composite Jobs Rule
To make use of the Composite Jobs rule, it is advisable that Claimants take every offered opportunity to describe their job responsibilities fully. This would include offering full descriptions when filling out work history forms, as well as when offering testimony at their disability hearings. Fully communicating the job duties that were regularly a portion of the job (as opposed to one-time events) will help further the goal of classifying PRW as a Composite Job. Some examples of Composite Jobs may include food delivery drivers who assist in the preparation of the food (think pizza delivery), military personnel who are charged not only with combat dutes, but with other specific roles and responsibilities, and salespeople who not only sell items, but assist with the implementation and support of the items that they sell. With proper preparation and communication to the agency or the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), a Claimant may be able to further support their claim for benefits by avoiding a Step 4 denial for being able to perform their PRW as generally performed.
To learn more about the Composite Jobs Rule, or to discuss your disability claim for free, please contact O’Brien & Feiler or visit our online Knowledge Base for tools and information that may be helpful on your disability journey.