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


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 SSA 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.


In October 2018, SSA awarded a contract to Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the RETAIN state projects.  The final evaluation report is expected to be published in 2026.
In April 2021, DOL awarded Phase 2 funds for Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, and Vermont to build upon their work in RETAIN Phase 1.  Phase 2 projects began enrolling participants as early as October of 2021.

Information For Phase 2 Participants
RETAIN Evaluation Design Report

Early Assessment Report

The Early Assessment Report assesses the initial implementation of the RETAIN programs in five state-specific chapters (i.e., KS, KY, OH, MN, and VT). Each state began enrollment at a different time between November 2021 and March 2022. This assessment of initial implementation covers the period through June 2022. The findings focus on (1) program partnerships and the environment surrounding RETAIN implementation and service delivery, (2) recruitment and enrollment of eligible workers, and (3) RETAIN implementation and service delivery during the initial months of enrollment and service delivery. It also identifies areas for continued monitoring and evaluation technical assistance.

Success Stories

These RETAIN Success Stories focus on the people and projects that enhance each state’s stay-at-work/return-to-work program. The Success Stories provide insight into the ways RETAIN programs may be used to promote the demonstration and enhance outreach with key audiences.

KS Success Story Phase 2
KY Success Story Phase 2
MN Success Story Phase 2
OH Success Story Phase 2
VT Success Story Phase 2

Related Links

DOL’s RETAIN website
DOL’s press release announcing the Phase 1 awards
DOL's press release announcing the Phase 2 awards

Special Topics Report

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

The RETAIN Brief presents information on RETAIN state programs’ approaches to recruiting potential enrollees and implications for the pace of enrollment during the first 11 months of the demonstration. The five state RETAIN programs (i.e., in KS, KY, MN, OH and VT) varied widely in cumulative enrollment during this period. A central challenge for the state programs is finding effective ways to identify, recruit, and enroll workers who would potentially benefit from RETAIN services within the time frame of early intervention. The state programs differed in their pace of enrollment and in their strategies for recruiting potential enrollees. Their strategies for recruiting potential enrollees fall on a continuum of direct and indirect approaches. Programs that use relatively direct strategies had more enrollees. The findings here offer considerations for RETAIN and other programs seeking to identify and enroll participants in a relatively short time frame to provide early intervention services.