Selected Research & Analysis: Disability Insurance (DI) Beneficiaries
How Does Mortality Among Disability-Program Beneficiaries Compare with That of the General Population? A Summary of Actuarial Estimates
Using period mortality estimates from Social Security Administration actuarial studies published over the period from 1977 to 2015, this article compares the long-term mortality trends of Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries aged 25 or older with those of the general population. The author finds substantial longevity gaps between the groups. Mortality rates among DI beneficiaries are highest in their first year on the DI rolls; rates are lower among those with longer durations on the rolls. Although period mortality for DI beneficiaries improved significantly over the study period, it remains today at levels similar to those experienced by the general public in the early years of the 20th century.
This article examines the geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and program-participation characteristics of initial Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) applicants who faced homelessness during 2007–2017. Using Social Security Administration data, the authors chart the distribution of homeless SSI/DI applicants and beneficiaries across county-equivalent areas in the contiguous United States. They also use a text-mining method to identify 162,536 potentially homeless disability-program applicants, in addition to the 647,790 applicants identified using the standard homeless-status indicators in the administrative data. They find that homelessness among disability-program applicants was largely an urban phenomenon, with almost half (42.1 percent) of applicants living in one of 25 urban areas. Relative to their domiciled counterparts, homeless disability-program applicants were far more likely to be male, aged 18–64, and without a high school or general equivalency diploma.
Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries with Multiple Impairments
This article uses data from the Social Security Administration's National Beneficiary Survey and agency administrative records to estimate the number and examine the characteristics of adult disability-program beneficiaries with multiple impairments. In the survey, most beneficiaries report conditions in more than one impairment category. Beneficiaries with multiple impairments tend to have more activity limitations and poorer health than those reporting one impairment. They also tend to be older and to have higher household incomes than those with one impairment, and are less likely to have work-related goals and expectations. Administrative data contain fewer impairments per beneficiary and do not necessarily reflect the condition(s) that the beneficiary considers most limiting. Administrative data are complete for their purpose, but they may underrepresent the totality of disability that beneficiaries experience, and thus may be less predictive of employment and other outcomes than survey data.
Social Security Administration Payments to State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies for Disability Program Beneficiaries Who Work: Evidence from Linked Administrative Data
This article's authors use linked administrative data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration to evaluate SSA's investment in services provided by the federal-state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. A unique data resource permits a comparison of the value of SSA payments to state VR agencies for services provided to disability program beneficiaries who find and maintain a substantial level of work with the value of the cash benefits those beneficiaries forgo because of work. The authors find that the value of cash benefits forgone by beneficiaries after applying for VR services is substantially greater than the value of SSA payments to state VR agencies for those services, although the portion of the difference that is attributable to VR services cannot be determined.
When Every Dollar Counts: Comparing Reported Earnings of Social Security Disability Program Beneficiaries in Survey and Administrative Records
This article examines differences between survey- and administrative data–based estimates of employment and earnings for a sample of Social Security Administration (SSA) disability program beneficiaries. The analysis uses linked records from SSA's National Beneficiary Survey and administrative data from the agency's Master Earnings File. The authors find that estimated employment rates and earnings levels based on administrative data are higher than those based on survey data for beneficiaries overall and by sociodemographic subgroup. In proportional terms, the differences between survey and administrative data tend to be greater among subgroups with survey-reported employment rates that are lower than that of beneficiaries overall.
There is wide geographic variation in Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplementary Security Income participation across the United States. The authors describe the variation. Using data from Social Security Administration reports and results from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the authors decompose the geographic variation in program participation into component parts including variation in disability prevalence and variation in program participation among working-age persons with disabilities. The variation in participation among persons with disabilities is further decomposed into socioeconomic subcomponents.
This article explores the causes of growth in the number of disabled workers on the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) rolls from 1980 through 2010 by estimating the probability of a DI beneficiary's program exit because of recovery, death, or conversion to retired-worker beneficiary. The author uses Social Security administrative data and a competing-risks model to estimate DI exit probabilities by cause and beneficiary sex, age, and disability type. Cumulative exit probabilities are calculated for beneficiaries over their first 9 years on the DI rolls. The author also examines possible changes over time by comparing outcomes for the 1980s with those for the 1990s.
Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries with Intellectual Disability
This article uses nationally representative survey data on working-age Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries to present a profile of the characteristics, employment, and income sources of beneficiaries with intellectual disability and to compare them with those of other working-age SSI and DI beneficiaries.
The authors use data from the 2008 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) matched to Social Security administrative records to produce tables providing detailed information on the economic and demographic characteristics of Disability Insurance beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients in January–July 2013. The tables update those published in a 2014 Research and Statistics Note that used 2010 data from earlier interview waves of the 2008 SIPP panel and a 2008 Research and Statistics Note that used 2002 SIPP data.
Employment, Earnings, and Primary Impairments Among Beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Programs
This article examines the employment and earnings of Disability Insurance beneficiaries and working-age Supplemental Security Income recipients across detailed primary-impairment categories. The authors use 2011 data from linked Social Security administrative files to identify which beneficiaries and recipients are most likely to have earnings and to have higher levels of earnings. They find substantial heterogeneity in these outcomes across primary impairments.
Longitudinal Patterns of Disability Program Participation and Mortality Across Childhood SSI Award Cohorts
This article follows six annual cohorts of childhood Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability awardees between 1980 and 2000, for a time horizon up to 30 years after initial SSI award, in many cases well into adulthood. The authors compare trajectories of successive awardee cohorts as the SSI program evolves from 1980 to recent years. The results show that the proportion of awardees in SSI-only status declines over the life cycle, with over half transitioning to other statuses roughly after 10 to 15 years. Many awardees transition from the SSI program to concurrent or Disability Insurance–only benefit status, and increasing proportions of awardees are deceased or off the rolls and alive. These patterns are common for all awardee cohorts, but there are major changes in trajectories across cohorts. Compared with the early cohorts, the more recent cohorts display sharper declines in mortality and steeper increases in the proportion off the disability rolls for other reasons. These two trends have opposite effects on the duration of disability program participation over the life cycle, with important policy implications.
Veterans Who Apply for Social Security Disabled-Worker Benefits After Receiving a Department of Veterans Affairs Rating of “Total Disability” for Service-Connected Impairments: Characteristics and Outcomes
This article examines the experiences of veterans with service-connected disabilities who encounter the disability compensation program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) program. The authors use matched administrative records from both agencies to track the characteristics and experiences of veterans who received VA ratings of “totally disabled” during fiscal years 2000–2006, focusing on the timing and outcomes of their applications for DI benefits and the prevalence of the primary diagnoses identified by both programs. The authors pay special attention to diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Recruitment in the Mental Health Treatment Study: A Behavioral Health/Employment Intervention for Social Security Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries
The recent development of evidence-based behavioral health and vocational rehabilitation interventions for persons with serious psychiatric impairments created the impetus for exploring the efficacy of those interventions if they were widely available to Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries. As a first step in this endeavor—a multisite randomized trial for providing interventions to beneficiaries with psychiatric impairments—the Mental Health Treatment Study was implemented. The authors report on the subject recruitment patterns for the study, including assessment of take-up rates, and on the statistical analysis of the relationships between beneficiaries' characteristics and the probability of enrollment. Results indicated that take-up rates among potential MHTS subjects with confirmed telephone contacts met or exceeded rates for previous Social Security Administration randomized trials, and beneficiaries with administrative records of recent vocational or labor-market activity were most likely to enroll. The authors discuss implications of their analyses on recruitment in similar interventions in the future.
We find that three factors—(1) population growth, (2) the growth in the proportion of women insured for disability, and (3) the movement of the large baby boom generation into disability-prone ages—explain 90 percent of the growth in new disabled-worker entitlements over the 36-year subperiod (1972–2008). The remaining 10 percent is the part attributable to the disability “incidence rate.” Looking at the two subperiods (1972–1990 and 1990–2008), unadjusted measures appear to show faster growth in the incidence rate in the later period than in the earlier one. This apparent speedup disappears once we account for the changing demographic structure of the insured population. Although the adjusted growth in the incidence rate accounts for 17 percent of the growth in disability entitlements in the earlier subperiod, it accounts for only 6 percent of the growth in the more recent half. Demographic factors explain the remaining 94 percent of growth over the 1990–2008 period.
Subsequent Program Participation of Former Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income Recipients Whose Eligibility Ceased Because of Medical Improvement
This article examines subsequent participation in the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs by individuals whose eligibility for those programs ceased because of medical improvement. The authors follow individuals whose eligibility ceased between 2003 and 2008 and calculate rates of program return for up to 8 years after the cessation decision. They also explore how return rates vary by certain personal and programmatic characteristics.
Profile of Social Security Disabled Workers and Dependents Who Have a Connection to Workers' Compensation or Public Disability Benefits
This note provides a comprehensive profile of the characteristics of disability beneficiaries with a connection to workers' compensation or public disability benefits (PDBs). The 8.3 percent of disabled workers who have this connection tend to be economically better off, more frequently middle aged, male, afflicted with a musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorder, and tend to wait longer to apply for social security disability benefits after onset than the general disabled-worker population. In our analysis, we have included a special focus on California, as this state represents a large portion of the PDB workload, and its experience has a substantial effect on the national picture.
How Common is "Parking" among Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries? Evidence from the 1999 Change in the Earnings Level of Substantial Gainful Activity
The authors explore the extent to which Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries restrain their earnings below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level in order to maintain their cash benefits. The extent of "parking" is measured by exploiting the 1999 change in the nonblind SGA earnings level from $500 to $700 and assessing its effect on cohorts of DI beneficiaries who completed their trial work period, one of which was affected by the SGA change, and one that was not.
This study uses survey and administrative data to analyze the characteristics of working-age Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries who report having work goals or expectations, and the extent to which these beneficiaries become employed and leave the disability rolls during a 4-year period.
This article introduces and highlights the key findings of the other articles presented in this special issue, which focuses on the employment of beneficiaries in the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs.
Longitudinal Statistics on Work Activity and Use of Employment Supports for New Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries
Longitudinal statistics on the employment activities of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries offer a different perspective than the Social Security Administration's published statistics, which are based on annual data, and have important policy implications.
Using data from the 2004–2006 National Beneficiary Surveys matched to Social Security administrative data, this study follows a cohort of disability beneficiaries participating in the Ticket to Work program for several years to assess changes in their service use, health status, employment, and income.
The authors use longitudinal Social Security administrative data to produce statistics on the number of Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)-only beneficiaries whose cash benefits were first suspended or terminated because of work and on the number of months thereafter that those beneficiaries remained in nonpayment status before their return to the program rolls, attainment of the full retirement age, or death—for each year from 2002 through 2006. We also explore differences by program title (DI versus SSI-only) and by participation in the Ticket to Work program. Finally, we examine outcome payments made on behalf of Ticket to Work participants in months of nonpayment status following suspension or termination because of work.
Using linked administrative data from program and earnings records, we summarize the 2007 employment rates of working-age (18–64) Social Security disability program beneficiaries at the national and state levels, as well as changes in employment since 1996. Substantial variation exists within the population. Disability Insurance beneficiaries and those younger than age 40 were much more likely to work relative to other Social Security beneficiaries. There are also strong regional differences in the employment rates among disability beneficiaries of working age, and these differences are persistent over time.
Longitudinal Patterns of Participation in the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs for People with Disabilities
We analyze longitudinal interactions in benefit eligibility between the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs and the lags arising from processing time in receiving the first payment, based on Social Security administrative records. We find that longitudinal interactions enhancing the bundle of cash benefits available for awardees over a 60-month period is much more common than apparent from cross-sectional data and identify distinct patterns of longitudinal interactions between the two programs. SSI plays an especially important role in providing benefit eligibility during the 5-month DI waiting period. Transition to nonbeneficiary status is more prevalent among SSI awardees because of exits attributable to the SSI means test. We also find that there is substantial variation in the lag in receiving the first disability payment.
Expanding Access to Health Care for Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries: Early Findings from the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration
The Accelerated Benefits (AB) demonstration project provides health benefits to Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries who have no health insurance during the 24-month period most beneficiaries are required to wait before Medicare benefits begin. This article describes the project and presents baseline survey results on health insurance coverage among newly entitled beneficiaries and the characteristics of those without coverage. A 6-month follow-up survey provides information on the effects of the AB health benefits package on health care utilization and on reducing unmet medical needs. The article also reports the costs of providing the health benefits package during the 24-month Medicare waiting period.