Well-Being and Behavior of People with Disabilities

Financial Well-Being in Retirement for Disabled Versus Other Workers

The Experiences of Low-Income Children with Disabilities as They Enter Early Adulthood 

Effects of the SSA Mental Health Treatment Study on Employment and Receipt of Disability Benefits Five Years After Receiving the Intervention 

Estimating the Cost and Utilization of Wrap-Around Coverage for Employed and Potentially Employed People with Disabilities

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Employment-Related Health Insurance Needs Survey

Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment Long-Term Follow-Up

Descriptive Studies of the Employment and Economic Well-Being of Social Security Beneficiaries

Disability Support Needs Under Health Reform

Analyses of Supported-Employment and Disability-Benefit Data

Paths to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Insurance Income Exit and Subsequent Reentry

Observable and Predictable Pathways to Supplemental Security Income /Social Security Disability Insurance Program Exit Among Beneficiaries with Psychiatric Disabilities

Characteristics, Benefit Receipt, and Work Outcomes of Child Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients Who Lose SSI at the Age-18 Redetermination

Benefits Forgone for Work Among Social Security Disability Beneficiary Subgroups

Changes in Beneficiary Characteristics and Employment–Related Outcomes from 2005 to 2015

Occupational Trajectories Following Disability Onset in the Late Working Years

Making Ends Meet: How Low-Income DI Beneficiaries Meet Their Needs

Gathering Information for a Chart Book of Statistics on Working Disability Beneficiaries

Financial Well-Being in Retirement for Disabled Versus Other Workers
Investigators: April Yanyuan Wu and Jody Schimmel Hyde (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

The relationship between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security retirement (SSR) benefits is important to consider in any discussion of potential reforms to federal disability and retirement programs. SSDI beneficiaries are protected from substantial penalties for claiming early retirement benefits, because their disability benefits continue until they convert into SSR benefits at the full retirement age (FRA). Many alternatives have been proposed to restore the soundness of the Social Security trust fund, and several of them are focused on changing the availability or generosity of SSDI benefits for claimants in the years before retirement. A key consideration in designing these policy proposals should be their effect on the well-being of SSDI beneficiaries.

For this project, we will match the Health and Retirement Study data to Social Security administrative earnings records to identify how the retirement well-being (that is, well-being after FRA) of those who received an SSDI award after age 50 differs from that of retired workers who did not receive SSDI. We will compare these two groups on multiple measures of financial well-being, including post-FRA income replacement rates (both Social Security and total household income), benefit levels, wealth, consumption, and the incidence of poverty. We will pay special attention to how differences in averaged indexed monthly earnings at age 50, age of first SSR or SSDI receipt, sex, and educational attainment affect the comparisons. The results of this analysis will give policymakers insight into the potential consequences of policy reforms that would affect SSDI benefits earned before FRA.

"The Postretirement Well-Being of Workers With Disabilities," Journal of Disability Policy Studies, April Yanyuan Wu and Jody Schimmel Hyde, August 2018 

"The Financial Vulnerability of Former Disability Beneficiaries in Retirement," (DRC Brief 2017-02), Jody Schimmel Hyde and April Yanyuan Wu, March 2017. (PDF)

The Experiences of Low-Income Children with Disabilities as They Enter Early Adulthood
Investigators: Denise Hoffman (Mathematica Policy Research), Jeffrey Hemmeter and Michelle Bailey (SSA)

Abstract

The years leading up to adulthood are particularly significant in the lives of low-income children with disabilities. During this time, youth make decisions and prepare for the trajectory they want their adult lives to take. Some may receive vocational training and rehabilitation to get ready for the transition from education to employment. Others may receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits now and may expect to receive disability benefits as adults.

For this study, we will estimate the association between the characteristics of former child SSI recipients, the services and benefits they receive, and their outcomes in early adulthood. Outcomes will include receipt of federal disability benefits; employment and earnings; and mortality. We will focus on children who were ages 14 to 17 in the year 2001, using data from the National Survey of SSI Children and Families linked to 2013 administrative data. This analysis will help the Social Security Administration identify areas to consider in designing future innovations to reduce individuals’ reliance on benefits and improve long-term outcomes for low-income children with disabilities.

"Vocational Rehabilitation: A Bridge to Self-Sufficiency for Youth Who Receive Supplemental Security Income?" (DRC Brief Number 2017-03), Denise Hoffman, Jeffrey Hemmeter, and Michelle Stegman Bailey, April 2017. (PDF)

Effects of the SSA Mental Health Treatment Study on Employment and Receipt of Disability Benefits Five Years After Receiving the Intervention
Investigators: Crystal Blyler and Julia Baller (Mathematica Policy Research), Robert Drake and Gary Bond (Dartmouth), Tom Hale (SSA)

Abstract

The SSA Mental Health Treatment Study (MHTS) was a randomized trial to examine the effects of providing SSDI beneficiaries who had psychiatric conditions with a package of services including evidence-based supported employment, systematic medication management, care coordination, a break from continuing disability reviews, and supplemental funding of health insurance copays and incidentals related to work (for example, transportation, business attire). Over 2,200 beneficiaries from 23 sites were enrolled in the study. Each received services and completed quarterly interviews over a two-year period. Service provision and data collection ended in August 2010. The immediate analyses revealed that, although employment and earnings outcomes were greater in the intervention group than they were in the comparison group, the intervention did not result in earnings above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level or suspension or termination of disability benefits due to employment. The possibility exists, however, that the short-term improvements in employment and earnings may lead to even greater earnings over time, eventually exceeding SGA level and resulting in fewer SSA income supports.

In the proposed study, we will link MHTS data with SSA data on benefits, employment, and earnings to examine longer-term (4–6 years post-intervention) impacts of the MHTS on employment, earnings, and SSDI status. The results will further inform studies of the role evidence-based supported employment services might play in shaping disability policy for beneficiaries with SMI.

Estimating the Cost and Utilization of Wrap-Around Coverage for Employed and Potentially Employed People with Disabilities
Investigators: Alexis Henry and Jack Gettens (University of Massachusetts Medical School), Denise Hoffman (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

Many people with disabilities will become newly insured with the implementation of health care reform, but the new coverage is unlikely to fully meet their need for employment-related health insurance. Rather than requiring that the health care reform plans include employment-related services for people with disabilities, an alternative and potentially more viable policy solution for people with disabilities is for a new type of subsidized coverage to “wrap-around” healthcare reform coverage to provide the services and cost protections necessary for employment.

Last year, investigators conducted a focus group study that described the wrap-around needs of people with disabilities. This study will follow up on the study of the year one focus group by quantifying those needs through analysis of data of enrollees in an existing Massachusetts program for people with disabilities, Massachusetts Medicaid Buy-In (MBI). As an option to state Medicaid programs, the MBI provides Medicaid coverage to employed people with disabilities whose income exceeds standard Medicaid income limits. A high percentage of MBI enrollees use the MBI coverage to “wrap” their primary coverage. The investigators will use claims from the MBI to estimate wrap-around cost and utilization within medical service categories, with particular attention to categories important to employment, including: personal care attendant services, durable medical equipment, pharmacy, home health services, targeted case management, and mental health services. They will also match MBI data to the Social Security Administration’s disability analysis file and MassHealth eligibility data, grouping cost and utilization statistics by earnings level, federal poverty level, and disability type. 

"Expenditures and Use of Wraparound Health Insurance for Employed People with Disabilities," Disability and Health Journal, John Gettens, Denise Hoffman, and Alexis D. Henry, April 2016.

"Estimating the Cost and Utilization of Wraparound Coverage for Employed People with Disabilities," (brief) Jack Gettens, Denise Hoffman, and Alexis Henry, April 2016. (PDF)

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Employment-Related Health Insurance Needs Survey
Investigators: Alexis Henry and Jack Gettens (University of Massachusetts Medical School)

Abstract

Many people with disabilities will become newly insured with the implementation of health care reform, but the new coverage is unlikely to fully meet their need for employment-related health insurance. Rather than requiring that the health care reform plans include employment-related services for people with disabilities, an alternative and potentially more viable policy solution for people with disabilities is for a new type of subsidized coverage to ‘wrap-around’ healthcare reform coverage to provide the services and cost protections necessary for employment.

Last year, investigators conducted a focus group study that described the wrap-around needs of people with disabilities. This study will follow up on the study of the year one focus group by further defining and quantifying those wrap-around needs through a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)-based survey in Massachusetts (MA). The BRFSS is widely used for public health research but under used for disability research. The investigators will conduct a follow-up survey of working-age respondents to the MA 2014 BRFSS who identify themselves as having a disability. The BRFSS was selected because of its potential to be a flexible, low-cost data source for this project and to demonstrate its utility as a source of data for disability research. Investigators will use information from stakeholders, a literature review, a review of existing surveys, and the focus group study to design the BRFSS-based follow-up survey, the Employment-Related Health Insurance Needs Survey(EHINS). Survey design activities will include the following: (a) drafting the survey instrument, (b) review of the draft instrument by employed and potentially employed people with disabilities, (c) cognitive testing, and (d) pilot testing. The investigators began fielding the survey in January 2014. They will use data from the MA BRFSS and the EHINS to quantify the wrap-around needs of working-age people with disabilities.

"Using American Community Survey Disability Data to Improve the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Accuracy," (brief) Jack Gettens, Pei-Pei Lei, and Alexis D. Henry, September 2015. (PDF)

"Leveraging the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for Disability Research," Jack Gettens, Alexis D. Henry, and Christine Clifford, September 2014.

Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment Long-Term Follow-Up
Investigators: Judith Cook and Jane Burke-Miller, University of Illinois at Chicago

Abstract

Under the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment (DMIE), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services awarded funds to four states to develop, implement, and rigorously evaluate interventions for workers with potentially disabling health conditions that would help to improve their health and vocational status, thereby allowing them to avoid enrolling in public assistance programs. Two states—Texas and Minnesota—conducted randomized controlled trials to test multi-component interventions aimed at providing comprehensive health insurance coverage, healthcare navigators, and vocational supports for large numbers of employed individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring behavioral and physical health disorders. These interventions were designed to prevent participants’ conditions from becoming severely disabling, and to maintain their employment, health status, and independence from public assistance programs. At 12-month follow-up, participants in both states reported greater access to and utilization of health and mental health services. In Texas, those receiving early intervention were significantly less likely to be receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) than controls after one year of service delivery, while in Minnesota, recipients were significantly less likely than controls to apply for SSI/SSDI.

For this study, the investigators will collaborate with the original state-level administrators and evaluators from Texas to follow DMIE participants over a longer period of time (36 months after DMIE enrollment) than the original evaluation timeframe (18 months after enrollment). The study will assess the longer-term impact of early intervention services on at-risk workers and the characteristics of those most likely to benefit from such services. The investigators will use the data originally collected by Texas for the DMIE evaluation and match them to state-level Medicaid claims data, public health services utilization and outcomes data, and state unemployment insurance wage records to assess the long-term effects of receiving DMIE services on later use of health and behavioral health services, employment, and earnings.   

"Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment in Texas: Long-Term Follow-Up of Health Services Utilization and Employment Outcomes," (DRC Brief Number 2017-05), Judith A. Cook, Jane K. Burke-Miller, and Thomas M. Bohman, September 2017.

Descriptive Studies of the Employment and Economic Well-Being of Social Security Beneficiaries
Investigator: Gina Livermore (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

The National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) provides a wealth of information about the characteristics, health status, service use, and employment of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. Although extensive information about beneficiaries has been produced using these data, the focus has been limited to topics of interest to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Ticket-to-Work evaluation. More general statistics about beneficiaries based on the NBS are available, but they are buried in appendices of large Ticket-to-Work evaluation reports. Researchers and policymakers interested in the SSA disability programs may not be using this information as extensively as they might be because many of them are unaware of its existence. Those who are aware must search through multiple reports to find specific statistics of interest. In addition, the NBS statistics currently available are generally for the overall beneficiary population rather than for particular subgroups of policy interest.

The purpose of this project is to conduct a series of studies based on the NBS that focus on topics and subgroups of interest to SSA and others. The studies will exploit the wealth of information contained in the NBS and complement that research with selected analyses of data from the Current Population Survey. The topics addressed in three Year 2 studies include (1) beneficiaries with high earnings, (2) beneficiary employment and economic well-being before and after the 2007–2009 recession, and (3) SSDI-only beneficiaries who reside in households with incomes below the federal poverty level. The topics to be addressed in three Year 3 studies include (1) SSI and SSDI beneficiaries who are parents, (2) young beneficiaries (age 18–29), and (3) beneficiaries with intellectual disabilities. 

"Characteristics of Adults with Psychiatric Disabilities Participating in the Federal Disability Programs," Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, Gina A. Livermore and Maura Bardos, June 2017.  

"Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries with Intellectual Disability," Social Security Bulletin, Gina A. Livermore, Maura Bardos, and Karen Katz, January 2017. 

"Characteristics of SSI and SSDI Beneficiaries Who Are Parents," (DRC Data Brief 2016-02) Gina Livermore and Maura Bardos, January 2016.

"Young Adult SSI and SSDI Beneficiaries," (DRC Data Brief 2016-01) Maura Bardos and Gina Livermore, January 2016. (PDF)

"Characteristics of Disability Beneficiaries with High Earnings," (DRC Data Brief) Gina Livermore and Maura Bardos, November 2015. (PDF)

"How Disability Beneficiaries Fared Before and After the Great Recession," (brief) Gina Livermore and Maura Bardos, January 2015.

"Why Are Some SSDI-Only Beneficiaries Poor? Insights from the National Beneficiary Survey," (brief) Gina Livermore and Maura Bardos, July 2014.

Disability Support Needs Under Health Reform
Investigators: Alexis Henry and Jack Gettens (University of Massachusetts)

Abstract

This project will conduct a focus group study of employed and potentially employed adults with disabilities in Massachusetts to determine the employment-related needs of such individuals and aid the design of wrap-around plans that support them. Massachusetts is uniquely well-suited for the study because of the commonwealth’s 2006 health care reforms and the high percentage of persons with disabilities who are insured. The study will include six focus groups with participants representing a variety of disability types, disabling conditions, geographic locations, employment statuses, health insurance types, and health care service delivery models.

"Employment-Related Health Insurance and Service Delivery Needs of Persons with Disabilities," Journal of Disability Policy Studies, John Gettens and Alexis D. Henry, August 2014.

"The Employment-Related Health Insurance and Service Delivery Needs of Persons with Disabilities," (brief) John Gettens and Alexis D. Henry, April 2014.

Analyses of Supported-Employment and Disability-Benefit Data 
Investigators: Judith A. Cook, Jane K. Burke-Miller, Dennis D. Grey (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Abstract

Barriers to employment for people with chronic conditions have been thoroughly documented, although their quantitative effects are not well-understood. These barriers include fear of losing cash benefits; fear of losing entitlement to public health insurance and access to services, including those instrumental to work; and difficulties in achieving and maintaining economic self-sufficiency because of limited skills, long periods out of the labor force, acute medical episodes, or high disability-related costs. This project focuses on people with serious psychiatric disabilities, in part because of their substantial representation on the disability rolls and in part because the employment and earnings of this population are especially sensitive to benefit design and the availability of appropriate employment supports. The goals of this project are to:

  • Learn more about the long-term (12-year) impacts of evidence-based practice supported employment (EBP SE) on earnings, benefit receipt, and mortality
  • Investigate the sensitivity of earnings and benefit receipt to the substantial gainful activity amount, and improve our understanding of how subjects rely on a combination of work and benefits for support
  • Build the knowledge base about objective and subjective factors that influence job separations for such workers

We will conduct three analyses to attain these objectives. First, we will examine data from a treatment and control group of people with psychiatric disabilities. The treatment group will have been randomly assigned to receive 24 months of EBP SE, and the control group will have received services in the Employment Intervention Demonstration Program (EIDP) study, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These data will be matched to administrative data to estimate the impacts of EBP SE on earnings, program status, benefit payments, and mortality over 12 years following random assignment. Second, we will use monthly employment data from the EIDP study to develop statistics for longitudinal patterns of benefits and earnings over the original 24-month sample period for EIDP. We will also use these data to produce descriptive statistics on reasons for job separation. Third, we will perform a parallel analysis on a national sample of working-age adults with psychiatric disabilities, derived from the 2001 Survey on Income and Program Participation panel.

"Long-Term Effects of Evidence-Based Supported Employment on Earnings and on SSI and SSDI Participation Among Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities," American Journal of Psychiatry, Judith A. Cook, Jane K. Burke-Miller, and Emily Roessel, April 2016.

"Reasons for Job Separations Among People with Psychiatric Disabilities," (brief) Judith A. Cook, Jane K. Burke-Miller, and Dennis D. Grey, May 2015. (PDF)

"Impact of Contingent Work on Subsequent Labor Force Participation and Wages of Workers with Psychiatric Disabilities," (Working Paper) Judith A. Cook, Jane K. Burke-Miller, and Dennis D. Grey, May 2015. (PDF)

Paths to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental insurance Income Exit and Subsequent Reentry
Investigators: Yonatan Ben-Shalom and Priyanka Anand (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

About 45 percent of the approximately 600,000 individuals first awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 1998 had had their benefits terminated for the first time by December 2006 because of work, medical recovery, retirement, death, or other reasons. Similarly, about 50 percent of the approximately 400,000 individuals first awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 1998 had had their benefits terminated for the first time by December 2007 because of medical recovery, retirement, death, income, resources, or other reasons; another 10 percent had had their benefits suspended because of work under section 1619(b). Many people who leave the SSDI and SSI rolls, however, return within a few years. The investigators will use administrative Social Security Administration (SSA) data to study the different pathways that new SSDI and SSI awardees follow before and after they exit the programs. They will also examine the factors associated with exit and reentry. We will construct separate sets of milestones to exit for SSDI and SSI awardees, and we will use the milestones to construct for each program possible paths to exit. We will then generate descriptive statistics on the percentage of new awardees who completed each possible path within five years (along with the characteristics of these awardees), and estimate multinomial logit models that predict completion of specific paths. We will also generate descriptive statistics and estimate multinomial logit models for program reentry within five years after exit. The study findings will help policymakers develop programs to help those who exit the programs remain off the rolls for longer periods of time. 

"Pathways Taken by New Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Awardees," Journal of Disability Policy StudiesPriyanka Anand and Yonatan Ben-Shalom, June 2018.

"Paths Taken By New Awardees of Federal Disability Benefits," (brief) Priyanka Anand and Yonatan Ben-Shalom, May 2016. (PDF)

Observable and Predictable Pathways to Supplemental Security Income /Social Security Disability Insurance Program Exit Among Beneficiaries with Psychiatric Disabilities
Investigators: Judith Cook, Dennis Grey, and Jane Burke-Miller (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Abstract

County and state mental health authorities as well as individual service provider agencies increasingly rely upon certified peer specialists to provide mental health recovery services. Given the growing evidence base for peer-delivered services, these positions are typically funded through a combination of Medicaid reimbursement and general revenue dollars. Evidence suggests that these positions may provide employment of greater stability and permit reasonable accommodations that allow employees who are beneficiaries of public disability programs to exit the Supplemental Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) rolls. For example, a survey of 271 mental health-certified peer specialists in one state found that more than one-half of those who were working reported a decrease in Social Security entitlements as a result of their employment. However, relatively little work has been done to understand worker and job features and decision-making processes associated with voluntary SSI/SSDI program exit in this population. The goal of this project is to learn what individual characteristics, employment features, and ecological factors influence beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities to voluntarily exit the SSI/SSDI program. Research participants will come from a large behavioral health company that trains and certifies local peer specialists and acts in seven states as the subcontracted employer of record for this workforce. After identifying peer staff who are current or former Social Security Administration (SSA) disability beneficiaries, we will gather data via telephone interviews, company employment history and earnings records, and matched data from the longitudinal SSA disability analysis file on disability beneficiary history and reported earnings. Findings from this research will be used to identify the career trajectories of mental health-certified peer specialists who successfully exit SSI and/or SSDI. This knowledge can inform the design of interventions that support the transition of employed individuals with disabilities from cash benefits to enhanced financial independence and economic security.

Characteristics, Benefit Receipt, and Work Outcomes of Child Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients Who Lose SSI at the Age-18 Redetermination
Investigators: David Mann and David Wittenburg (Mathematica Policy Research) and Jeffrey Hemmeter (Social Security Administration)

Abstract

This study will focus on state variation in the employment, earnings, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI program outcomes of former child SSI recipients who received an age-18 eligibility redetermination decision. At age 18, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether each child SSI recipient is eligible for SSI benefits under the adult disability definition. Although this eligibility redetermination is a significant event in the lives of child SSI recipients and their families, limited information exists on the long-term outcomes of this population at the state level, where differences in the policy environment and other characteristics exert influence. This study will complement ongoing research by SSA staff and others regarding national outcomes of recipients and provide new information on how these variations might arise at the age-18 redetermination decision.We will use a combination of descriptive and multivariate techniques to examine the long-term outcomes of these former child SSI recipients. As a starting point, we will present tabulations showing SSI, SSDI, employment, and earnings outcomes of former child SSI recipients by state and age-18 redetermination status at age 25. To illustrate cross-state variation in outcomes, we will develop national maps for each outcome of interest. In addition, we will use multivariate analyses to assess the extent to which any substantial state variation identified in the descriptive analysis remains after controlling for beneficiary characteristics, such as primary impairment status.

Benefits Forgone for Work Among Social Security Disability Beneficiary Subgroups
Investigators: Jody Schimmel Hyde, Michael Levere and Su Liu (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

Returning to work is a goal for many disability beneficiaries and has important implications for disability program outlays. In recent years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has strengthened efforts to increase beneficiary employment and, as a result, has devoted attention to better measuring the extent to which beneficiaries forgo cash disability benefits because they worked at a substantial level. The result of these efforts is monthly indicators in SSA’s Disability Analysis File that indicate whether a beneficiary had cash benefits suspended or terminated for work (STW), and the dollar value of benefits forgone for work (BFW). Numerous researchers have considered these measures, each with a slightly different study period or subpopulation. As a result, it is difficult to compare existing STW and BFW statistics for subgroups across time. Using data from the 2013 Disability Analysis File, this study seeks to fill that gap. We will produce a comprehensive compendium of STW and BFW statistics from 2002 through 2012, both cross-sectional and longitudinal, which will be consistent across years and have beneficiary subgroups based on demographic characteristics and program participation. Such information may help SSA identify groups of beneficiaries who could most benefit from innovations to improve successful returns to work and reduce reliance on benefits.

"Disability Beneficiary Work Activity, 2002–2014: Evidence from the Social Security Administration's Disability Analysis File (DAF)," (DRC Working Paper 2018-02), Michael Levere, Jody Schimmel Hyde, Su Liu, and Francoise Becker, April 2018.

Changes in Beneficiary Characteristics and Employment–Related Outcomes from 2005 to 2015
Investigator: Gina Livermore (Mathematica Policy Research) 

Abstract

Data from the National Beneficiary Survey (NBS) have been instrumental in improving our understanding of the employment experiences of beneficiaries who are interested in working. Understanding the changes that have taken place over time—and their implications—can give more insight into these experiences for the Social Security Administration and others interested in improving the employment of people with significant disabilities. For example, the growing prevalence of psychiatric and musculoskeletal conditions among beneficiaries over the past decade may have affected the beneficiary population in terms of its personal characteristics, demand for employment services, and employment expectations.

This study will rely on the 2015 NBS to produce statistics on working-age Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries, and compare them to statistics produced from the 2005 NBS to assess changes in beneficiary characteristics and employment-related experiences over the 2005–2015 period. The estimates of employment-related outcomes will control for changes in beneficiary characteristics over time to assess whether any differences are significant and could therefore be attributed to factors other than changes in the characteristics of the beneficiary population.

Occupational Trajectories Following Disability Onset in the Late Working Years
Investigators: Jody Schimmel Hyde and April Yanyuan Wu (Mathematica Policy Research)

Abstract

Many workers who experience the onset of a disability can also experience large reductions in their earnings that are not offset by other sources of household income. We know little about the changes in employment that drive those reductions. Do earnings drop because workers exit the labor force completely, because they stay in their occupation but reduce their hours, or because they switch to a different occupation? In this study, we will assess the occupational trajectories of older workers who experience disability onset to better understand the reasons for the large reductions in earnings that follow such events.

Capitalizing on the Health and Retirement Study, and linking its information to data from the Occupational Information Network, we will follow workers from age 55 until full retirement age. We will compare the occupational trajectory of workers who experience disability onset to those who do not, focusing on any differences in their likelihood of (1) exiting the labor force completely, (2) working in the same occupation, (3) working in a similar occupation, or (4) working in a significantly different occupation. We will use multivariate regression analysis to examine the association between the skills required in an older worker’s longest held job at age 55 and later employment outcomes by disability onset status. The findings of this project will give policymakers insight into the types of skills that might be transferrable after disability onset.

"New Work-Limiting Health Events and Occupational Transitions Among Older Workers," (DRC Working Paper Number: 2019-01), Jody Schimmel Hyde and April Yanyuan Wu, March 2019.

Making Ends Meet: How Low-Income DI Beneficiaries Meet Their Needs
Investigators: Alexis Henry and Jack Gettens (University of Massachusetts Medical School)

Abstract

Approximately 38 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries are living in or near poverty (less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level). Earlier studies suggest that among low-income beneficiaries, SSDI payments alone are not enough to meet basic needs. We expect that some beneficiaries meet their needs by supplementing SSDI payments with other income and in-kind assistance—including both reported and unreported work, assistance from other government programs, and help from family and friends. In this study, we will determine how low-income SSDI beneficiaries are making ends meet. That is, how do they meet their basic needs? How do they generate income? How do they manage their expenses?

We will also examine the role employment plays in meeting SSDI beneficiaries’ basic needs, and how greater work activity may affect a person’s ability to make ends meet. This information will help policymakers assess how the strategies SSDI beneficiaries use to make ends meet correspond with SSDI work incentives and whether there are program changes that would help more beneficiaries get jobs and increase their earnings.

We will gather data through qualitative methods and interviews with 40 low-income SSDI beneficiaries. We will recruit low-income SSDI beneficiaries by asking staff at non-government, community-based organizations to introduce us to low-income SSDI beneficiaries. We will then ask these beneficiaries to introduce us to other beneficiaries whom we could not otherwise contact through community-based organizations. The study will take place in Worcester, Massachusetts, a small city with a diverse population that is typical of many U.S. cities.

Gathering Information for a Chart Book of Statistics on Working Disability Beneficiaries

Investigators: Jody Schimmel Hyde, Sarah Croake, Alex Bryce, and Matt Messel (Social Security Administration)

Abstract

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strong interest in investigating the extent to which people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are financially secure. The agency also seeks to document that information on a regular basis. But because SSA only collects information from beneficiaries required to administer its programs, it does not know their complete financial status and must glean these data from another source. This report helps to fill this gap by discussing the strengths and limitations of using several nationally representative surveys to produce statistics on income and poverty among SSDI and SSI beneficiaries.

In this study, we examined income and poverty statistics from three sources: the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS-ASEC) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), both administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Beneficiary Survey (NBS), which is administered by SSA. We selected these sources in consultation with SSA because they are nationally representative, measure beneficiary status, and capture data from a range of working-age adults. The CPS-ASEC and SIPP can also be linked to SSA administrative data, which overcomes issues of survey respondents misreporting their benefit receipt.

We produced one version of statistics from those sources based solely on self-reports and another version for which we substituted self-reports about SSDI and SSI receipt with administrative records covering the same time period as the respective survey. Using each of the sources, we produced statistics on income and poverty measures that are comparable (to the extent possible) to those that appear in other SSA publications. We documented cross-survey differences with an eye toward (1) helping SSA select the most appropriate source for a potential chart book and (2) explaining how the results would have differed had another source been selected instead.

"Developing Income-Related Statistics on Federal Disability Beneficiaries Using Nationally Representative Survey Data," (DRC Working Paper 18-05), Jody Schimmel Hyde, Sarah Croake, Alex Bryce, and Matt Messel, October 2018.