Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN)

State(s) / Location(s) Involved










RETAIN is a joint project with the Department of Labor (DOL) testing early interventions to help workers stay at work or return to work quickly after experiencing the onset of a work-threatening injury, illness, or disability. The policy goals are to reduce long-term disability – including the need for SSDI or SSI benefits – and to increase employment retention and labor force participation among those individuals. DOL awarded cooperative agreements to states to implement RETAIN projects, and we will evaluate the project. 

Although the states are each implementing their own unique models, all RETAIN projects are centered around early coordination of health care and employment-related supports and services for participating workers. The interventions include the following, at minimum:

  • Early identification of workers, very soon after the onset of a condition that could affect their ability to work;
  • Using specialized Return-to-Work Coordinators to coordinate health and employment service delivery;
  • Training health care providers in occupational health best practices;
  • Facilitating early communication and return-to-work efforts between workers, their employers, and their health care providers; and
  • Partnerships among relevant state agencies and at least one health care system.

Related Links

DOL’s RETAIN website
DOL’s press release announcing the Phase 1 awards

Special Topics Report

The RETAIN Demonstration: Practical Implications of State Variation in SSDI Entry


In October 2018, SSA awarded a contract to Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the RETAIN state projects, with the final report due in 2025. DOL awarded Phase 1 grants to plan and pilot the state projects. The eight Phase 1 states began enrolling participants for small pilots in the summer of 2019. A subset of the states will be competitively selected to continue to full implementation (Phase 2) lasting through March 2025.