Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 58, No. 4

(released October 1995)
by Kajal Lahiri, Denton R. Vaughan, and Bernard Wixon

We model the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) disability determination process using household survey information exact matched to SSA administrative information on disability determinations. Survey information on health, activity limitations, demographic traits, and work are taken from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). We estimate a multistage sequential logit model, reflecting the structure of the determination procedure used by State Disability Determination Services agencies. The findings suggest that the explanatory power of particular variables can be appropriately ascertained only if they are introduced at the relevant stage of the determination process. Hence, as might be expected by those familiar with the process, medical variables and activity limitations are major factors in the early stages of the process, while past work, age, and education play roles in later stages. The highly detailed administrative information on outcomes at each stage allows clarification of the roles of particular variables. Planned future work will include policy estimates, such as the number of persons in the general population eligible for the disability programs, as well as analysis of applications behavior in a household context.

by Kalman Rupp and David C. Stapleton

This article examines factors affecting the growth in the Social Security Administration's disability programs. We synthesize recent empirical evidence on factors affecting trends in applications and awards for Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and duration on the rolls. Econometric analyses of pooled time-series, cross-sectional data for States provide strong evidence of business cycle effects on applications and, to a lesser extent, on awards. Substantial effects of cutbacks in State general assistance programs are also found, especially for SSI. Estimated effects of the aging of the baby boomers, growth in the share of women who are disability insured, the AIDS epidemic, and changes in family structure are also presented. Indirect evidence suggests the importance of programmatic factors, especially for awards, and especially in the mental and musculoskeletal impairment categories. The decline in the average age of new awardees has substantially increased duration, particularly for SSI. As a result, caseload growth would be expected to continue even in the absence of future award growth.

by Paul T. Decker and Craig V. Thornton

A rigorous 6-year evaluation of transitional employment services indicates that the services can substantially increase the employment and earnings of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who have mental retardation. The evaluation examined the Social Security Administration's Transitional Employment Training Demonstration, which operated from 1985 to 1987. Our estimates indicate the demonstration services raised the average employment and earnings levels for mentally retarded SSI recipients who were offered the services. Furthermore, the estimates show that these increases persisted relatively undiminished over the 6 years after recipients entered the demonstration. Because average SSI payments for the group fell only slightly during the 6 years, the participants' average income rose. The rise in income, together with increases in work activity and community integration, suggests that the overall well-being of the participants increased because of the services. Our evaluation also suggests that transitional employment services benefit society as a whole because the earnings gains combined with the likely cost savings from reduced use of other services exceed the costs of the transitional employment services.

by Daniel B. Radner

This article examines the money incomes of the elderly and the nonelderly. The economic status of the elderly is put in perspective by discussing changes in real incomes since 1967 and the income of the elderly relative to the incomes of other age groups. Detailed age groups within both the elderly and nonelderly groups are examined. The article finds that the economic status of the elderly in 1992 was substantially better than in 1967, but was about the same as that in 1984. The real median income of the elderly rose during the period from 1967 to 1989, but declined from 1989 to 1992. The ratio of the income of the elderly to that of the nonelderly was higher in 1992 than in 1967, but the 1992 ratio was lower than that in 1984. Large increases in mean Social Security benefits were important in the increase in the total income of the elderly since 1967.

by Lenna D. Kennedy

Most persons under the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program receive the checks in their own name and make their own decisions as to the use of the funds. However, there has always been a portion of the beneficiary population who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to manage their benefits alone.

This note gives an overview of the representative payee program, including a program description and brief history, a "snapshot" of some characteristics of the population receiving Social Security benefits and SSI payments through a representative payee, recent trends in the number of persons with payees receiving such benefits or payments, and legislative and policy responses to these trends.