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What is a ‘Composite Job’ and What Does Having Worked One Mean for My SSI or SSDI Benefits Application?

| Feb 12, 2024 | Social Security |

There are so many details, great and small, that go into successfully pursuing a claim for SSI and/or SSDI benefits. One of those details is the assessment of the kind of work you were doing and whether or not you have level of physical and/or mental functioning needed to return to that kind of employment. Making a winning case in this area requires an in-depth understanding of how the Social Security Administration (SSA) does these assessments. To be sure that you have that kind of knowledge on your side as you pursue your application for benefits, make certain you have a skilled Chicago Social Security attorney on your side.

D.R. was a man whose SSI and SSDI case came down to that sort of intricate assessment of the work he last performed. D.R. had several physical and mental health problems that gradually worsened over time and, as they did, the jobs he could do became fewer and fewer. He shifted from janitor to forklift operator, and from there to a school bus monitor where he assisted children with special needs. Eventually, D.R. gave up that job, too, because it caused him too much pain in his hands, feet and hips.

The administrative law judge (ALJ) who heard D.R.’s case concluded that he was not entitled to benefits because he was able to perform “light duty” work (including a job like school bus monitor), and rejected D.R.’s application.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, however, sided with D.R. That court found that the evidence produced at the benefits hearing did not support the ALJ’s findings and sent the case back for more action. A key argument that D.R. wisely made, and which was successful in the Court of Appeals, centered on whether or not D.R.’s old bus monitor job was something that Social Security law defines as a “composite job.” If his job was not, then the denial of his application was proper. If it was, then D.R. still had a potential case.

Social Security’s ‘Dictionary of Occupational Titles’ and composite jobs

To understand exactly what a composite job is, a little bit of background is necessary. When you apply for benefits, you have to provide the SSA with proof of your past employment experience, and evidence that you cannot continue doing that sort of work anymore. When it comes to analyzing the duties involved in any job, the SSA relies on something called the “Dictionary of Occupational Titles” (DOT), which lists many jobs and the physical and cognitive requirements of those jobs.

A composite job is something that involves the duties of more than one job title in the DOT. This requires the SSA to consider both of those DOT titles (and their respective physical and cognitive requirements) in assessing whether or not the benefits applicant can still do that work or not.

Generally, a composite job involves two different titles within the DOT. In order to have the physical and mental functioning necessary to return to work like your old composite job, the judge must find that you still have adequate functioning to do each of the two components of the job.

In D.R.’s case, the exact nature of his previous school bus monitor job was such that it involved, in terms of the DOT, both the work of a “school bus monitor” and a “childcare attendant.” D.R.’s previous work was a composite job, but was not properly assessed as a composite job in his application hearing, so the ALJ’s denial of his application for benefits was not valid.

This all may sound very technical and, in reality, it is. SSI and SSDI cases have a lot of very technical demands, making them particularly poor cases to pursue without the right legal counsel. Get the legal representation you need from the knowledgeable Chicago Social Security attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. Our attorneys have many years of experience diligently fighting for people to get them the benefits they deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.