By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff
An ALJ has a duty to identify and resolve any apparent conflicts between the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and a vocational expert’s (VE) testimony. Here, the claimant argued that the ALJ failed to resolve an apparent conflict between the VE’s testimony and her residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which limited her to "simple, routine, repetitive tasks." The claimant contended that her RFC prevented her from performing the jobs identified by the VE that require Level 2 reasoning. Although the ALJ inquired about consistency between the VE’s testimony and the DOT, he did not ask whether there was a conflict between the claimant’s RFC and an ability to perform Level 2 jobs. Level 2 reasoning includes detailed uninvolved tasks. The court determined that to assess whether an apparent conflict exists that an ALJ must resolve, the DOT’s express language and the VE’s testimony must be compared. Unlike someone limited to "short" instructions, the ALJ found that the claimant could perform jobs limited to "simple, routine, repetitive tasks." The court reasoned that detailed instructions are less correlated with complexity than length. Instructions often include many steps, each of which is straightforward. Noting that it was joining its sister circuits that have considered the issue, the court found that there was no apparent conflict between "simple, routine, repetitive tasks" and Level 2 reasoning. Accordingly, there was no apparent conflict for the ALJ to resolve. The denial of benefits was affirmed (Angela Lawrence v. Saul, CA-4, No. 18-1112, October 24, 2019.).
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