Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 58, No. 1
In December 1993, about 3.8 million persons under age 65 received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments because of a disability. More than half of these recipients had some form of mental disorder. In recent years, the number of disabled SSI recipients has climbed sharply. At the same time, there has been a change in the disability patterns among these recipients. The proportion of recipients with mental disorders, particularly those with psychiatric illness, is increasing steadily. Many of these recipients enter the SSI program in their youth and may stay in the program for many years. Similar increases and disability patterns in the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) program imply program related causes, including recent changes to the disability requirements and outreach efforts. These changing disability patterns have implications for the size and shape of future SSI caseloads.
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.
This article analyzes duration on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability rolls prior to age 65 among children and working-age adults, based on a 10-year followup of 1974-82 cohorts of new awardees by utilizing monthly data from administrative records for 1974-92, and on statistical projections beyond the followup period. Although SSI means testing is responsible for a high proportion of early suspensions, when multiple spells are accounted for, long stays dominate. The estimated mean length of all first SSI spells is 5.5 years. It is 11.3 years for disabled children, 1.3 years for disabled adults eligible for both the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) and SSI, and 6.4 years for adults eligible for SSI only. When multiple spells are accounted for, the projected mean total preretirement-age SSI disability stay almost doubles to 10.5 years for all awardees and increases to 26.7 years for children.
The history of the Social Security programs in the United States falls into several distinct eras, defined by changing social, demographic, and economic conditions. At present the retirement components of these programs is moving into a stage of program maturation, which poses certain relatively well-understood changes to policymakers. The disability programs are also moving into the same set of societal conditions, but their impact is considerably more difficult to predict. Already disability incidence rates have experienced disturbingly large and poorly understood shifts. Developing a way to predict these shifts and to deal with the challenges that they make for existing programs is therefore a major priority of Social Security's current research agenda.