As a result of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (the Bulletin), 70 FR 2664 (January 14, 2005), the Social Security Administration (SSA) requested that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convene a committee of experts to conduct a peer review of the Abt Associates’ report titled Synthesizing Information About Vocational Preparation Requirements, Occupational Tasks, and Required Functional Abilities in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System. SSA commissioned Abt to develop a report to provide data about occupational requirements for mental functioning, specifically around adaptability and social interaction, in the modern workforce. These data cover a gap in the Occupational Requirements Survey that is being used to create the Occupational Information System, which will replace the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) in SSA’s disability determination processes. These efforts are part of the Vocational Rules Modernization initiative to update SSA’s disability policies in keeping with current medical practice, technological advancements, and the contemporary workforce.
The National Academies committee, which carried out the peer review of the Abt report over the course of four months, included experts from the fields of epidemiology/biostatistics, economics, occupational psychology, and vocational rehabilitation. The committee met three times virtually to evaluate Abt’s methodology and selection of data in accordance with the specific questions posed by SSA in the Statement of Task (see Box I-1). Per the instructions from SSA, the committee evaluated the methodology used by Abt but not its findings or conclusions. During its meetings, the committee focused on providing concrete examples from the Abt report for its answers and ensuring it had a complete picture of Abt’s methodology as described in its report. The committee created a flowchart to help it visualize Abt’s process (see Figure 1), while it reviewed the methods section of the report and relevant appendixes.
Abt was tasked with relating mental function to essential job tasks within three specific vocational preparation (SVP) ranges for 134 occupations that were identified as priorities by SSA. Occupations were defined as groups of jobs that were aggregated using SOC codes (Abt Associates, 2020, p. 2). Jobs were defined as groups of tasks and work activities that individuals perform for employers in exchange for a wage (Abt Associates, 2020, p. 2). SSA asked Abt to assemble information on the levels of social interaction and adaption required to perform tasks in these occupations for a given SVP range. Abt conducted the project in five phases. Phase 1 comprised an environmental scan to identify the primary data source to be used to identify occupations’ core tasks and inform the ratings. Phases 2–4 involved the expert work group process for creating the occupational requirement ratings. In Phase 5, Abt analyzed all 134 SOC codes to identify commonalities across essential tasks and required functional abilities.
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