Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 3

(released August 2019)
by Glenn R. Springstead

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the Social Security benefits of individuals who would otherwise receive a full benefit based on earnings in Social Security–covered employment as well as pension income from noncovered employment. Since the WEP was established in 1983, critics have asserted that it overcorrects the would-be windfall for affected beneficiaries and is difficult to administer. This article considers two WEP replacement options that would modify the benefit calculation methodology. It compares the current WEP with the two options and discusses some of the possible effects of changing the current law.

by Elisa Walker and Emily Roessel

This article uses data from the Social Security Administration's National Beneficiary Survey and agency administrative records to estimate the number and examine the characteristics of adult disability-program beneficiaries with multiple impairments. In the survey, most beneficiaries report conditions in more than one impairment category. Beneficiaries with multiple impairments tend to have more activity limitations and poorer health than those reporting one impairment. They also tend to be older and to have higher household incomes than those with one impairment, and are less likely to have work-related goals and expectations. Administrative data contain fewer impairments per beneficiary and do not necessarily reflect the condition(s) that the beneficiary considers most limiting. Administrative data are complete for their purpose, but they may underrepresent the totality of disability that beneficiaries experience, and thus may be less predictive of employment and other outcomes than survey data.

by Matt Messel and Alexander Strand

This article examines how much time typically passes between disability onset and application for disability-program benefits, by age at onset and diagnosis. Among eventual applicants, certain subgroups might be suitable targets for employment-support interventions. Using Social Security administrative data, the authors find that the median period from onset to application is 7.6 months. Younger applicants tend to have waited longer, particularly those diagnosed with back impairments or arthritis. Among both younger and older applicants, individuals diagnosed with intellectual disability or other mental disorders are potential targets for early intervention programs because those groups wait the longest to apply and are the most likely to continue working in the interim.