Return-to-Work Outcomes Among Social Security Disability Insurance Program Beneficiaries (Journal Article)

Publisher: In Working Toward Success: Special Journal Edition of Disability Policy Studies, vol. 26, no. 2 (subscription required), edited by Yonatan Ben-Shalom and David Wittenburg
Sep 01, 2015
Yonatan Ben-Shalom and Arif A. Mamun

We followed a sample of working-age Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program beneficiaries for 5 years after their first benefit award to learn how certain factors are associated with achievement of four return-to-work milestones: enrollment for employment services provided by a state vocational rehabilitation agency or employment network, start of a trial work period (TWP), completion of TWP, and suspension or termination of benefits because of work. We found that younger beneficiaries are more likely than are older beneficiaries to achieve the milestones and that there exists substantial variation across impairment types. In addition, the probability of achieving the milestones is higher for individuals with more years of education, for Blacks, and for individuals residing in states with low unemployment rates at the time of award. It is lower for beneficiaries with a high DI benefit amount at award, an award decision made at a higher adjudicative level, and/or Supplemental Security Income or Medicare benefits at the time of DI award. We also found large variation in the relationships of both state of residence and award month to these return-to-work outcomes. We attribute these variations to unobserved factors at the state-level, policy changes, and trends in unobserved beneficiary characteristics.