By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff
When there is an apparent conflict between vocational expert (VE) testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), ALJs are required to obtain reasonable explanations for the conflict. In this case, the VE testified that a limitation to one- to two-step instructions would fall between reasoning levels 1 and 2. Further, the ALJ stated she would assume the VE’s testimony was consistent with the DOT unless he indicated otherwise, which the VE did not. The VE identified two light-work jobs that met the ALJ’s proposed criteria. The ALJ determined that the claimant was not disabled and denied benefits. The claimant argued on appeal that the occupations cited by the VE fell outside his capabilities, as they all required a reasoning level 2 assessment, exceeding the limitations found by the medical expert relied upon by the ALJ. However, the court concluded that the claimant did not identify any conflict between a one- to three-step instruction limitation and a job requiring reasoning level 2. Rather, the court noted that the claimant failed to identify any authority saying that a one- to three-step instructions limitation is incompatible with reasoning level 2. Moreover, courts have determined that discrepancies between a simple-tasks limitation and the DOT reasoning levels is not the type of actual or apparent conflict that necessitates a resolution because VEs and the DOT use different terminology. The judgment denying benefits was affirmed (Allen L. Surprise v. Saul, CA-7, No. 19-3233, July 29, 2020).
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