Research & Analysis by L. Scott Muller
Veterans Who Apply for Social Security Disabled-Worker Benefits After Receiving a Department of Veterans Affairs Rating of “Total Disability” for Service-Connected Impairments: Characteristics and Outcomes
This article examines the experiences of veterans with service-connected disabilities who encounter the disability compensation program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) program. The authors use matched administrative records from both agencies to track the characteristics and experiences of veterans who received VA ratings of “totally disabled” during fiscal years 2000–2006, focusing on the timing and outcomes of their applications for DI benefits and the prevalence of the primary diagnoses identified by both programs. The authors pay special attention to diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Researchers David Autor and Mark Duggan have hypothesized that the Social Security benefit formula using the average wage index, coupled with a widening distribution of income, has created an implicit rise in replacement rates for low-earner disability beneficiaries. This research attempts to confirm and quantify the replacement rate creep identified by Autor and Duggan using actual earnings histories of disability-insured workers over the period 1979–2004. The research finds that disability replacement rates are rising for many insured workers, although the effect may be somewhat smaller than that suggested by Autor and Duggan.
Labor-Force Participation and Earnings of SSI Disability Recipients: A Pooled Cross-Sectional Time Series Approach to the Behavior of Individuals
This article examines two important aspects of work behavior, labor-force participation, and earnings among persons who since 1976 have become entitled to SSI disability benefits and received payments for a full calendar year or longer during the intervening time period. A data set was developed containing the records of a random sample of all individuals who had ever received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits and matched to earnings records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). A multivariate analysis based on a pooled cross-sectional time series approach was employed using individual-level data to first estimate the probability of an SSI recipient performing work and then to estimate, among those who worked, the level of earnings. For this analysis, the SSI population was divided into three distinct groups based on their diagnosis: the nondevelopmentally disabled, the developmentally disabled (other than the mentally retarded), and the mentally retarded.
The analysis provides information about the impact that individual characteristics (such as age, education, diagnosis, and so forth) play in the decision to work and in determining the level of earnings. The analysis also addresses yearly variations in labor-force participation and earnings.
The Effect of Vocational Rehabilitation and Work Incentives on Helping the Disabled-Worker Beneficiary Back to Work
This article is the second in a series of articles that use data from the New Beneficiary Followup survey to analyze the work effects of the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance beneficiaries. Survival analysis techniques are used to determine the effect of vocational rehabilitation efforts and work incentive program provisions on actual work outcomes. The findings indicate that the demographic variables of age, gender, race, education, and marital status affect the tendency to return to work in the expected way. The results suggest a possible disincentive effect may be built into certain work incentive provisions of the program. The encouraging news is that the vocational rehabilitation efforts seem to have a positive effect on the tendency to return to work. Physical therapy, vocational training, general education, and job placement efforts all seem to increase the tendency to go back to work.
Work Efforts of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries: Preliminary Findings From the New Beneficiary Followup Survey
Health Insurance Coverage Among Recently Entitled Disability Insurance Beneficiaries: Findings From the New Beneficiary Survey
This report examines the impact of local labor market characteristics on three steps in the disability process: The perception of oneself as disabled; the decision to apply for benefits under the social security disability insurance program (SSDI); and the determination of disability status under SSDI. The research attempts to determine whether the elements of an individual's local economic environment play a role in the various steps of the disability process specifically above and beyond his or her own demographic characteristics and economic motivations. Among the key variables used to measure the local economic environment are the unemployment rate, the percent of families below the low income (poverty) level, rural location, occupational diversity and the percent of the unemployed exhausting their unemployment benefits. With the exception of the last variable, which is measured on a statewide basis, all variables pertain to the county of residence.
The results contradict earlier findings which were based on aggregated data. No significant effect on any of the three elements in the disability process was found for either variable measuring the dimensions of the unemployment problem. With few exceptions, results from the other labor market variables were sketchy at best. One surprising result is noted with respect to the benefit replacement ratio, the variable intended to measure the relative attractiveness of SSDI benefits.
In 1971, 44 percent of workers who had been currently entitled to social security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) for 1 year or more received benefits from at least one income source in addition to SSDI. These recipients of multiple benefits (RMB's) were found to have average benefits from SSDI which were greater than the average SSDI benefit for those who did not receive income from these additional sources. On the average, total benefits to RMB's were double the benefits paid to those who received only SSDI. The combined benefits for overlappers produced median replacement rates for nonoverlappers. The rate of receipt of replacement rates in excess of 80 percent of predisability earnings was 70 percent larger for persons who were RMB's than for those who were not.
Based on the present research, consideration of replacement rates based solely on SSDI benefits substantially understates the extent to which benefits from public and private programs actually replace predisability earnings. Since replacement rates based solely on SSDI benefits are generally higher for persons receiving only SSDI than for persons who receive multiple benefits, employing policies which cap replacement rates based only on SSDI benefits may only serve to increase the differential in the total replacement of predisability earning which exists between those who receive multiple benefits and those who do not. Increasing this differential could be considered undesirable from both the adequacy and equity viewpoints.
The role of time as an input into the utility maximization process has long been recognized in the labor/leisure decision. Expanded research has dealt with this input in a family context. Assuming a joint utility maximization model, the resulting labor supply functions can be determined for both spouses.
The model presented here is an extension of previous models by its incorporation of the effects of disabling conditions of the husband on the labor supply decisions of both spouses.
Because hours worked takes on a lower limit of zero, the standard simultaneous equation techniques would yield estimates lacking the ideal properties. Instead, the model is estimated using a simplification of a simultaneous TOBIT technique, which yields consistent estimates.