Research & Data
Return To Work Policy Studies
Disability Determination Process Small Grant Program (DDP)
Consultative Examination Study
Consultative Exam (CE) Baseline Study
The National Survey of SSI Children and Families (NSCF)
Ticket to Work Evaluation
The National Beneficiary Survey (NBS)
National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) Fact Sheets
Analyzing Relationships Between Disability, Rehabilitation, and Work (ARDRAW)
Disability Analysis File
Disability Perceptions Survey
The goal of this program is to distribute small stipends ($10,000) to graduate students for innovative research relevant to rehabilitation, work, and the disability program. We awarded the 5-year, annually renewable grant for managing this program to PRI on September 1, 2016.
PRI publishes a request for applications and proposals for a new cohort of student researchers each December. Applications are due on March 1 of each year. The first two cohorts of 11 students have completed their projects. Third cohort of students were awarded in June 2019. Their reports are due in June of 2020. The request for proposals for the fourth cohort will be published in December 2019.
Please see the ARDRAW website for more information, including completed reports.
The consultative examination (CE) study featured medical consultants (MC) with administrative assistance from disability examiners reviewing both initial and hearings level CEs, focusing on:
- CE Processes. Are CE requests complying with Federal regulations?
- CE Content. Are medical sources conducting CEs and including content in compliance with Federal regulations?
- CE Completeness and Quality. Do CEs include sufficient information to make a disability determination, and did the agency receive everything it paid for in the exam? Additionally, are there process and content factors that contribute to the quality of CEs?
They delivered a methodological report documenting the questionnaire reliability: “Inter-Rater Reliability Analysis of Data to Document the Consultative Examination Process” (Volume 1 and Volume 2). In another report they analyzed findings from the 327 case folders: “An Assessment of Consultative Examination Processes, Content, and Quality: Findings from the CE Review Data.”
A third deliverable is a reliable web-based questionnaire, with reliability established using agency MCs. The questionnaire is available for future agency research projects and programmatic improvements.
A CE is a physical or mental examination performed by a treating source or other medical source when additional information (e.g., clinical findings, laboratory tests, diagnosis, and prognosis) is needed to make a disability determination. The CE Baseline Study analyzed and documented the quality of CEs used in the initial level of disability determination; assessed if CEs were requested in compliance with SSA regulations; and established a baseline for CE quality.
There were important limitations to this study. The study used the electronic folder for review. At the time of the study, an electronic folder for the initial claim record was not available in sufficient numbers in all States. Comparisons could only be made between States with electronic folders, and the cases were selected in a non-scientific manner, thus limiting the ability to generalize the study findings. The study also did not include CEs obtained at the hearings level. At the time of the study electronic folders were not available at that level.
The NSCF collected data on the health status, functional limitations, health care utilization, health insurance coverage, receipt of services, SSI experience, and socioeconomic status of the households of over 8,000 children who were receiving, had received, or were applying for SSI. The study was limited to the non-institutionalized population in the contiguous United States. Data collection began July 2001 and concluded July 2002.
We are exploring our options for a second National Survey of SSI Children and Families in the coming years and have posted a link to a survey options report. This report provides options related to the structure and technical aspects of a potential new survey.
For more information, continue to the NSCF page.
For information on the Ticket to Work (TTW) program, visit The Work Site.
The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-170) requires the Commissioner of Social Security to provide for independent evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the Ticket to Work program and submit reports to Congress with findings and recommendations to improve the program. We completed the evaluation in July 2013.
Please see the Ticket to Work Evaluation page for links to the Ticket to Work evaluation reports, policy briefs summarizing key findings from the reports, and the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) evaluation reports (which we examined as part of the Ticket to Work evaluation).
We initially conducted the National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) as part of the Ticket to Work evaluation. For more information on the NBS, please continue to the NBS page.
The National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) collects data from a national sample of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries and a sample of Ticket to Work program participants. To ensure that the survey represents the full range of beneficiary perspectives, we field the survey using procedures that accommodate the needs of respondents with all kinds of disabilities. We conducted rounds of the NBS in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2017.
The NBS collects data on a wide range of topics including socio-demographic information, limiting conditions, health and functional status, health insurance, interest in work, barriers to work, use of services, employment, income, and experience with Social Security programs. As a result, both we and external researchers interested in disability and employment issues can use the survey data for policymaking and program-planning efforts. Some sections of the first four rounds of the NBS target beneficiary activity directly related to the Ticket to Work (TTW) program. Beginning with the 2015 NBS, the survey is shifting from focusing on the TTW program to collecting more information on the factors associated with successful and unsuccessful work attempts by beneficiaries.
For more information, continue to the NBS page.
We have created Public Use Files for five rounds of the NBS. For more information about the Public Use Files, please continue to the NBS Public Use page.
National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) Fact Sheets
We produce Fact Sheets answering questions about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, including Ticket to Work participants, using data from the National Beneficiary Survey (NBS). Please visit the NBS Fact Sheet page to view the Fact Sheets.
In 2009, SSA commissioned a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of The National Academies on the criteria that SSA uses to evaluate disability in persons with HIV infection. The IOM published the report, HIV and Disability: Updating the Social Security Listings, in 2010. The report recommended ways to improve the utility of the HIV infection listings by improving the sensitivity and specificity of listing criteria for evaluating HIV infection.
To view the full report, continue to the HIV Report.
In 2009, SSA commissioned a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of The National Academies on the criteria that SSA uses to evaluate disability in persons with cardiovascular disorders. The IOM published the report, Cardiovascular Disability: Updating the Social Security Listings, in 2010. The report recommended ways to improve the utility of the cardiovascular listings by improving the sensitivity and specificity of listing criteria for evaluating cardiovascular disorders.
To view the full report, continue to the Cardiovascular Report.
Employment Network Payment Structure Evaluation Report
The Social Security Administration (SSA) directed Abt Associates to conduct research to analyze service provider payment structures. The objective of the research was to help SSA determine whether there are feasible alternatives to the Milestone/Outcome and Outcome payment systems that SSA currently uses to pay the Employment Networks (ENs) that serve beneficiaries in the Ticket to Work (TTW) program.
Through this research, SSA sought recommendations for how payments to ENs could be structured, and how these payment structures, and the change in benefit rules, would affect the costs and benefits of TTW. This document reports on the results of research activities that Abt completed to address SSA’s research question: How could EN payments be structured under a recent legislative proposal that would replace current Social Security Disability Insurance earnings rules with a tiered earning structure and simplified work?Select Employment Network Payment Structure Evaluation Report to view the full report.
Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Service Model Analysis
The Social Security Administration (SSA) asked Abt Associates to develop evidence-based recommendations for potential changes that SSA might consider for the Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program service model. The intent of the recommendations is to help SSA achieve its goals of serving people who receive SSI or SSDI with information about SSA work incentives and the effects of work on benefits within funding limitations while offering a service model that is reasonable and attractive to potential applicants for WIPA cooperative agreements.
This report describes findings from the three knowledge gathering activities Abt conducted: (1) a review of relevant rehabilitation, motivation, and adult learning literature; (2) key informant interviews with WIPA and state vocational rehabilitation (VR) directors; and (3) secondary analysis using data from SSA's Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) and Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD) evaluations. Based on those findings and Abt's experience implementing BOND and POD, this report presents 16 recommendations developed for SSA's consideration, accompanied by evidence to support each one.
Select WIPA Service Model Analysis Report to view the full report.
SSI Youth Employment Evidence Report
While many children experience difficulties transitioning to adulthood, children receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) confront additional challenges due to poor health and poverty. These challenges complicate their opportunities for future education and employment, often leading to poor educational and employment outcomes. Studies of SSI youth suggest significant gaps in the awareness and use of services currently available to them. For example, less than one quarter of 17-year-old SSI recipients received vocational training, and 27 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds on SSI have never had an Individualized Education Program (IEP). For this youth population, educational attainment, work, and earnings are at low levels throughout their transition years into adulthood.
The purpose of this research project was to gather key information from researchers to identify the evidence and recommendations to design regulatory and policy changes to support employment for youth with disabilities. Select SSI Youth Employment Evidence Report to view the report, which summarizes the literature reviewed and provides recommendations for SSA’s consideration.
SSI Youth Community Based Services and Supports
The Social Security Administration (SSA) asked Abt Associates and their partners at the Institute of Community Integration at the University of Minnesota and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Virginia Commonwealth University to produce a report about community-based services and supports available for youth ages 14 to 25 with disabilities. In this age range, youth transition from being legal dependents to legal adults. For youth with disabilities, this transition can be daunting because of the loss of federally guaranteed education and supports through the public school system and challenges in obtaining and maintaining employment.
This report describes the current community-based service and support landscape for youth with disabilities. The report also synthesizes the available evidence regarding the impact of community-based services and supports on employment for youth with disabilities. The report answers the following research questions:
- What kinds of community-based supports and services are effective in improving employment, employment readiness, and related outcomes for youth with disabilities?
- Based on the available evidence, what policy changes to Section 301 could improve employment and related outcomes for transition-age youth receiving SSI?
Grant # IDD11000001
On September 1, 2011, we awarded a 5-year grant (renewable annually) to Policy Research Inc. (PRI) in Delmar, New York. The goal of this program was to improve the disability determination process by making small stipends ($10,000) available to graduate students for innovative research relevant to the disability program to allow graduate-level students to conduct supervised independent research on improving disability determination processes. The DDP program ended in August 2018, after the last cohort of students completed their projects.
You can view completed reports on the PRI website. Access the completed final reports by clicking on the title of the report.
The Disability Analysis File (DAF) is a set of files containing SSA administrative data on federal disability beneficiaries, culled from a variety of SSA sources. The DAF contains data related to program participation, employment activity, and benefits for adults who have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and children and adults who have received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in any month since 1996.
The full, restricted use version of the DAF is available for use by SSA staff, SSA contractors, and researchers with approved agreements with SSA. For others interested in using the DAF to analyze SSDI and SSI beneficiaries, we developed a public use version of the DAF. This public use file (PUF) contains the DAF data elements that are of broadest interest for a random 10 percent sample of the SSI and SSDI beneficiaries included in the full DAF.For more information about the full DAF, including the DAF documentation, data marts, and extracts for the most recent versions of the file, continue to the DAF restricted access file page. For more information about the DAF PUF, including documentation and data files, continue to the DAF PUF page.