Lack of SNOJ Saves Disability Claim

Empire Justice Center July 31, 2018

What is SNOJ?  Significant number of jobs – a number provided at hearings by vocational witnesses, which ALJs typically seem to accept on faith.  But LASNNY attorney Mike Telfer recently argued the numbers cited by the vocational witness at a recent hearing were not significant – and won. Based on the ALJ’s sole hypothetical question, the vocational expert (VE) testified the hypothetical individual was able to perform only two occupations: (1) Racker (DOT Code: 524.687.018) with 1,030 jobs in the national economy and (2) Electrode Cleaner (DOT Code: 729.687.014) with 1,109 jobs in the national economy.  Both occupations were defined as light, unskilled work with a Standard Vocational Preparation requirement (SVP) of 1.


At the hearing, Mike argued that the combined total of 2,139 jobs did not constitute a significant number of jobs that the claimant could perform.  Mike cited Hamilton v. Colvin, 105 F. Supp. 3d 223, 231 (N.D.N.Y. 2015), which held that 5,160 jobs nationally is not a significant number and that “numbers of jobs in the ballpark of 10,000 to 11,000 nationwide have been held significant.”  Thus, he argued the VE’s testimony supported a finding that the claimant was disabled.


In her decision, the ALJ summarized Mike’s argument, which he had outlined in a post-hearing brief. She concurred that the VE’s testimony supported a finding the claimant was disabled.  She found the claimant was unable to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy based on the testimony of the VE and Mike’s brief.  Thus, she found the claimant disabled.


Kudos to Mike for persuading the ALJ to take his arguments about availability of jobs seriously.  And thanks to Albany Law summer intern Beryl Manske for summarizing the winning decision.