NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Return-to-Work Outcomes Among Social Security Disability Insurance Program Beneficiaries

July 29, 2015

Yonatan Ben-Shalom and Arif A. Mamun of Mathematica Policy Research 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.
  • Completion of TWP, and suspension or termination of benefits because of work.

The researchers found:

  • Younger beneficiaries are more likely than are older beneficiaries to achieve the milestones.
  • Milestone achievement rates vary a lot between different disability types.
  • 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 times of receiving the benefit.
  • The probability of achieving the milestones is lower for beneficiaries with a high disability insurance benefit amount.
  • The probability of achieving the milestones is higher when the beneficiary receives supplemental Security Income or Medicare benefits at the time of the disability insurance award.

The study found large variation in the probability of achieving the milestones across states and across time. The authors attribute these variations to unobserved factors at the state-level, policy changes and trends in unobserved beneficiary characteristics.

Overall, the study reveals that higher award amounts correlate with a lower chance of returning to work.

Source: Yonatan Ben-Shalom and Arif A. Mamun, "Return-to-Work Outcomes Among Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries," Mathematica Policy Research, May 1, 2015.

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