Selected Research & Analysis: State and Local Analysis or Social Programs
State and local governments provide pensions to their employees instead of or along with Social Security coverage. The Great Recession and other events have adversely affected some state and local budgets, leading to pension reforms that aim to lower benefits and bolster funding levels. Using data for 2016–2019 from fund financial reports and independent research center databases, this article examines three key components of standard pension benefit formulas: vesting periods, final-average-salary computation periods, and benefit multipliers. This analysis is the first to examine those characteristics at the level of individual benefit tiers in state and local pension systems, and more significantly, to weight the statistics by the number of active members within each tier. Results are shown for tiers grouped by Social Security coverage status, worker occupation group, and whether the tier is open or closed to new hires.
Pensions for State and Local Government Workers Not Covered by Social Security: Do Benefits Meet Federal Standards?
Federal law allows certain state and local governments to exclude employees from Social Security coverage if the employees are provided with a sufficiently generous pension. Approximately 6.5 million such workers were not covered by Social Security in 2018. Retirement systems for noncovered workers have become less generous in recent years, and a few plans could exhaust their trust funds within the next decade, putting beneficiaries at risk. This article examines data from a variety of sources to assess whether state and local governments currently satisfy the federal standards for retirement plan sufficiency and whether the standards ensure benefits equivalent to those from Social Security.
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.
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.
Factors Affecting Initial Disability Allowance Rates for the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs: The Role of the Demographic and Diagnostic Composition of Applicants and Local Labor Market Conditions
Various factors outside the control of decision makers may affect the rate at which disability applications are allowed or denied during the initial step of eligibility determination in the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. This article, using individual-level data on applications, focuses on the role of three important factors—the demographic characteristics of applicants, the diagnostic mix of applicants, and the local unemployment rate—in affecting the probability of an initial allowance and state allowance rates. A random sample of initial determination administrative records for the 1993–2008 period is used for the analysis in a fixed-effects multiple regression framework. The empirical results show that the demographic and diagnostic characteristics of applicants and the local unemployment rate substantially affect the initial allowance rate. An increase in the local unemployment rate tends to be associated with a decrease in the initial allowance rate. This negative relationship holds for adult applicants in both the DI and SSI programs and for SSI childhood applicants.
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.
Workplace injuries and illnesses are an important cause of disability. States have designed their workers' compensation programs to provide cash and medical-care benefits for those injuries and illnesses, but people who become disabled at work may also be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and related Medicare benefits. This article uses matched state workers' compensation and Social Security data to estimate whether workplace injuries and illnesses increase the probability of receiving DI benefits and whether people who become DI beneficiaries receive benefits at younger ages.
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 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.
Characteristics of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries Receiving Workers' Compensation or Public Disability Benefits Compared With Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries Without These Additional Benefits
This article offers a brief summary of the workers' compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance programs. Information highlighted includes the differences between the two programs' types and terms of coverage. It compares the differing patterns in workers' compensation and Social Security disability benefits as a percentage of wages over the past few decades and considers the potential causes for such trends. The article also explains the offset provision included in the 1965 Social Security Amendments, the intention behind the offset, and how and when offsets are applied.
This article summarizes several different methods used to measure the adequacy of wage replacement in state workers' compensation systems in the United States. Empirical research casts serious doubt on benefit adequacy, especially in the case of more serious disabilities.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two programs that provide disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Act and the regulations that implement it establish uniform national criteria for determining whether someone who applies for disability benefits under either program is disabled. However, an agency of the state in which the claimant lives makes the initial determination under contract to SSA and using SSA guidelines. Historically, states have allowed initial disability claims at rates that vary from one state to another, in some cases widely. This study estimates the amount of variation in allowance rates that is related to certain economic and demographic differences among states.
This article examines the recent trends in the size and performance of the equity investments of state and local pension plans. It also provides a context for the discussion about investing some portion of the Social Security trust fund reserves in private equities.
This article examines factors affecting the growth in the Social Security Administration's disability programs. We synthesize recent empirical evidence on factors affecting trends in applications and awards for Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and duration on the rolls. Econometric analyses of pooled time-series, cross-sectional data for States provide strong evidence of business cycle effects on applications and, to a lesser extent, on awards. Substantial effects of cutbacks in State general assistance programs are also found, especially for SSI. Estimated effects of the aging of the baby boomers, growth in the share of women who are disability insured, the AIDS epidemic, and changes in family structure are also presented. Indirect evidence suggests the importance of programmatic factors, especially for awards, and especially in the mental and musculoskeletal impairment categories. The decline in the average age of new awardees has substantially increased duration, particularly for SSI. As a result, caseload growth would be expected to continue even in the absence of future award growth.