Selected Research & Analysis: Disability Insurance (DI) Program

See also related Extramural Projects.

Public Knowledge About the Social Security Administration's Disability Programs: Findings from the Understanding America Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 4 (released November 2022)
by Matt Messel, Tokunbo B. Oluwole, and David Rogofsky

Using 2021 survey results from the nationally representative panel of Understanding America Study respondents, the authors of this article explore public knowledge of various aspects of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. They present descriptive statistics that highlight different levels of program knowledge from one program aspect to another as well as across respondent characteristics such as age, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, income, and presence of a long-term disabling condition. Program aspects covered in the survey questions include financial and medical eligibility for program benefits, application and disability determination procedures, and typical processing times and benefit amounts.

Quick Disability Determination Cases: Descriptive Statistics for Fiscal Years 2015–2020
Research and Statistics Note No. 2022-02 (released September 2022)
by Sika Koudou and Jethro Dely

In the early 2000s, members of the baby boom generation were approaching the ages at which disability onset is most common. Anticipating long-term increases in disability benefit applications, the Social Security Administration instituted the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process beginning in 2006. Using a computer-based predictive model to screen initial applications, QDD identifies claims for which an allowance is deemed probable and medical evidence to support a quick decision is likely to be readily available. This note presents QDD case volumes for fiscal years 2015–2020, compares QDD and non-QDD cases, and investigates whether an unexpected decline in disability benefit application receipts during that period affected the prevalence and processing times of QDD cases.

Work-Related Overpayments to Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries: Prevalence and Descriptive Statistics
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 2 (released May 2019)
by Denise Hoffman, Benjamin Fischer, John T. Jones, Andrew McGuirk, and Miriam Loewenberg

In this article, the authors estimate the prevalence, duration, and amount of work-related benefit overpayments accrued by Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries from January 2010 through December 2012. The authors also estimate the association between beneficiary and program-related characteristics and the likelihood of a work-related overpayment.

Social Security Disability Insurance at Age 60: Does It Still Reflect Congress' Original Intent?
Issue Paper No. 2015-01 (released September 2015)
by Paul O'Leary, Elisa Walker, and Emily Roessel

Congress established the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program in 1956, after more than 20 years of debate. From the outset of the debate, however, there had been general agreement that the DI program should be for workers with substantial work histories, be funded through payroll taxes, include stringent disability criteria, provide modest benefit levels, and require return-to-work supports. Using administrative data on current DI beneficiaries, this issue paper examines how the program reflects those original tenets as it nears its 60th anniversary.

Case Studies from the Benefit Offset National Demonstration
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 75, No. 1 (released February 2015)
by Molly Costanzo and Debra Goetz Engler

The authors present an overview of the Benefit Offset National Demonstration project and the opportunities it provides to participants. They also share the experiences of three individuals who are successfully reaching their return-to-work goals as they participate in this project.

Growth in New Disabled-Worker Entitlements, 1970–2008
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 4 (released November 2013)
by David Pattison and Hilary Waldron

We find that three factors—(1) population growth, (2) the growth in the proportion of women insured for disability, and (3) the movement of the large baby boom generation into disability-prone ages—explain 90 percent of the growth in new disabled-worker entitlements over the 36-year subperiod (1972–2008). The remaining 10 percent is the part attributable to the disability “incidence rate.” Looking at the two subperiods (1972–1990 and 1990–2008), unadjusted measures appear to show faster growth in the incidence rate in the later period than in the earlier one. This apparent speedup disappears once we account for the changing demographic structure of the insured population. Although the adjusted growth in the incidence rate accounts for 17 percent of the growth in disability entitlements in the earlier subperiod, it accounts for only 6 percent of the growth in the more recent half. Demographic factors explain the remaining 94 percent of growth over the 1990–2008 period.

Workplace Injuries and the Take-Up of Social Security Disability Benefits
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 3 (released August 2012)
by Paul O'Leary, Leslie I. Boden, Seth A. Seabury, Al Ozonoff, and Ethan Scherer

Workplace injuries and illnesses are an important cause of disability. States have designed their workers' compensation programs to provide cash and medical-care benefits for those injuries and illnesses, but people who become disabled at work may also be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and related Medicare benefits. This article uses matched state workers' compensation and Social Security data to estimate whether workplace injuries and illnesses increase the probability of receiving DI benefits and whether people who become DI beneficiaries receive benefits at younger ages.

What Can We Learn from Analyzing Historical Data on Social Security Entitlements?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 4 (released November 2011)
by Joyce Manchester and Jae G. Song

Data from administrative records of the Social Security Administration allow us to examine patterns of initial entitlement to Old-Age Insurance benefits as well as Disability Insurance benefits. We follow cohorts born in different years over their lifetimes to identify changes in entitlements by age over time. Breaking out single birth cohorts shows close adherence in entitlement ages to rule changes as well as increasing shares of cohorts relying on the Disability Insurance program in middle age.

Employment among Social Security Disability Program Beneficiaries, 1996–2007
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 3 (released August 2011)
by Arif Mamun, Paul O'Leary, David C. Wittenburg, and Jesse Gregory

Using linked administrative data from program and earnings records, we summarize the 2007 employment rates of working-age (18–64) Social Security disability program beneficiaries at the national and state levels, as well as changes in employment since 1996. Substantial variation exists within the population. Disability Insurance beneficiaries and those younger than age 40 were much more likely to work relative to other Social Security beneficiaries. There are also strong regional differences in the employment rates among disability beneficiaries of working age, and these differences are persistent over time.

Who Never Receives Social Security Benefits?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 2 (released May 2011)
by Kevin Whitman, Gayle L. Reznik, and Dave Shoffner

Approximately 4 percent of the aged population will never receive Social Security benefits. This article examines the prevalence, demographic characteristics, and economic well-being of these never-beneficiaries. Most never-beneficiaries do not have sufficient earnings to be eligible for benefits, and most of these insufficient earners are either late-arriving immigrants or infrequent workers. About 44 percent of never-beneficiaries are in poverty, compared with about 4 percent of current and future beneficiaries.

Administering Social Security: Challenges Yesterday and Today
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3 (released August 2010)
by Carolyn Puckett

During its 75-year history, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has faced many administrative challenges. This article depicts some of those challenges—involving legislative demands, staffing and workloads, infrastructure and technology, logistics and procedures, emergency response operations, and other matters—and the steps that SSA has taken to deal with them.

Uses of Administrative Data at the Social Security Administration
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1 (released May 2009)
by Jennifer McNabb, David Timmons, Jae G. Song, and Carolyn Puckett

This article discusses the advantages and limitations of using administrative data for research, examines how linking administrative data to survey results can be used to evaluate and improve survey design, and discusses research studies and SSA statistical products and services that are based on administrative data.

Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1 (released May 2009)
by Joyce Nicholas and Michael Wiseman

Provided here are the absolute and relative poverty status of 2002 elderly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. Official poverty estimates are generated from the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS/ASEC). The poverty study presented here differs from previous studies in that it is based on CPS/ASEC income and weight records conditionally adjusted by matching Social Security administrative data. This effort improves the coverage of SSI receipt and the accuracy of SSI estimates. The adjusted CPS/administrative matched data reveal lower 2002 poverty rates among elderly persons (with and without SSI payments) than those generated from the unadjusted CPS/ASEC data.

A Legislative History of the Social Security Protection Act of 2004
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 4 (released March 2009)
by Erik Hansen

The Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), with its administrative remedies and program protections, can be seen as another incremental step in the development of a social insurance program that best meets the evolving needs of American society. This article discusses the legislative history of the SSPA in detail. It also includes summaries of the provisions and a chronology of the modification of these proposals as they passed through the House and Senate, and ultimately to the president's desk.

The Erosion of Retiree Health Benefits and Retirement Behavior: Implications for the Disability Insurance Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 4 (released September 2001)
by Paul Fronstin

The number of companies offering health benefits to early retirees is declining, although reductions in the percentage of early retirees covered by health insurance have been only slight to date. In general, workers who will be covered by health insurance are more likely than other workers to retire before the age of 65, when they become eligible for Medicare. What effect that will have on claims under the Disability Insurance program is not yet clear.

The Effect of Welfare Reform on SSA's Disability Programs: Design of Policy Evaluation and Early Evidence
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 1 (released July 2000)
by Paul S. Davies, Howard M. Iams, and Kalman Rupp

Recent legislation has affected the populations served by the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) disability programs. The Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 mandated that persons whose disability determination was based on drug addiction or alcoholism be removed from the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance rolls. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (later amended by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997) tightened the SSI eligibility criteria for children and converted the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into a block grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This article describes the design of three related studies evaluating the direct and indirect effects of these policy changes on SSA's disability populations. It describes the methodological challenges of the studies and the strategies used to overcome them. It also presents early evidence from the three studies and discusses future directions.

Collecting Information on Disability in the 2000 Census: An Example of Interagency Cooperation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 4 (released April 2000)
by Michele C. Adler, Robert F. Clark, Theresa J. DeMaio, Louisa F. Miller, and Arlene F. Saluter

This article reports research and analysis undertaken by a very successful collaborative, federal interagency work group on disability, convened by the Office of Management and Budget and charged with the development of a short set of disability questions for Census 2000. The process that culminated in the final disability questions on Census 2000 is described, along with a discussion of the complexities of defining and measuring disability.

The Development of the Project NetWork Administrative Records Database for Policy Evaluation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 2 (released September 1999)
by Kalman Rupp, Dianne Driessen, Robert Kornfeld, and Michelle L. Wood

This article describes the development of SSA's administrative records database for the Project NetWork return-to-work experiment targeting persons with disabilities. The article is part of a series of papers on the evaluation of the Project NetWork demonstration. In addition to 8,248 Project NetWork participants randomly assigned to receive case management services and a control group, the simulation identified 138,613 eligible nonparticipants in the demonstration areas. The output data files contain detailed monthly information on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits, annual earnings, and a set of demographic and diagnostic variables. The data allow for the measurement of net outcomes and the analysis of factors affecting participation. The results suggest that it is feasible to simulate complex eligibility rules using administrative records, and create a clean and edited data file for a comprehensive and credible evaluation. The study shows that it is feasible to use administrative records data for selecting control or comparison groups in future demonstration evaluations.

Disability Trends in the United States: A National and Regional Perspective
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 57, No. 3 (released July 1994)
by William J. Nelson, Jr.
Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries and Disabled SSI Recipients: A Profile of Demographic and Program Characteristics
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 5 (released May 1989)
by John L. McCoy and Kerry Weems
Statistical Methods for the Estimation of Costs in the Medicare Waiting Period for Social Security Disabled Worker Beneficiaries
ORES Working Paper No. 37 (released March 1989)
by Barry V. Bye and Gerald F. Riley

This paper presents the statistical methods used to estimate Medicare costs in the waiting period that were presented in text tables 2–3 of Bye and Riley (1989). The first part describes the development of Medicare utilization equations for each Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program status group. The second part describes how these equations were used to predict expected costs per month and how the monthly estimates were aggregated to yield estimates of costs in the full 2-year waiting period and in the second year only. Finally, there is a brief discussion of the accuracy of the predictions.

The 1973 CPS-IRS-SSA Exact Match Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 7 (released July 1988)
by Beth Kilss and Frederick J. Scheuren
Commentary: Interagency Data Matching Projects for Research Purposes
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 7 (released July 1988)
by Daniel B. Radner
Commentary: Disability Research
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 5 (released May 1988)
by Barry V. Bye
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 8 (released August 1986)
by Mary Ross and Carol Hayes
An Overview of OASDI Revenue, Expenditures, and Beneficiaries, 1974–85
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 6 (released June 1986)
by Christine Irick
Adult Assistance Programs Under the Social Security Act
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 48, No. 10 (released October 1985)
by Herman F. Grundmann
Overview of the Office of Research, Statistics, and International Policy Functions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 48, No. 9 (released September 1985)
by Jane L. Ross
Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984: Legislative History and Summary of Provisions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 48, No. 4 (released April 1985)
by Katharine P. Collins and Anne Erfle
Deficit Reduction Act of 1984: Provisions Related to the OASDI and SSI Programs
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 11 (released November 1984)
Age, Work and Capacity Devaluation
ORES Working Paper No. 30 (released September 1983)
by Joseph Greenblum

To be awarded Disability Insurance benefits, an individual must have an objectively determinable, severe medical condition or impairment that, according to Social Security regulations, is serious enough that it can be presumed to keep the individual from working. We know, however, that some people who have medical conditions serious enough to qualify them for disability benefits are nevertheless able to continue working, while others who consider themselves unable to work do not have a serious enough impairment to qualify them for benefits. Whether or not a seriously impaired individual files for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) will depend, in part, on his or her own self-assessment of his ability to work, i.e., whether he considers himself to be severely disabled. This self-assessment depends upon many factors in addition to the actual severity of the individual's medical condition. These factors, therefore, become important elements in the decision to apply for SSDI benefits. This report examines how the relationship between measures of actual individual functional capacity and individual self-assessments of work capacity vary by age and other important job-related attributes.

A Note on Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Discrete Choice Models from the 1978 Survey of Disability and Work
ORES Working Paper No. 28 (released November 1982)
by Barry V. Bye and Salvatore J. Gallicchio

This paper demonstrates an alternative maximum likelihood procedure for estimating discrete choice models in retrospective samples, such as a model of SSA disability beneficiaries or application status in the 1978 Survey of Disability and Work.

Recent Trends in the Social Security Disability Insurance Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 8 (released August 1982)
by Mordechai E. Lando, Alice V. Farley, and Mary A. Brown
The Bellmon Report
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 5 (released May 1982)
The Impact of Local Labor Market Characteristics on the Disability Process
ORES Working Paper No. 27 (released April 1982)
by L. Scott Muller

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.

Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980: Legislative History and Summary of Provisions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 4 (released April 1981)
Receipt of Multiple Benefits by Disabled Worker Beneficiaries
ORES Working Paper No. 15 (released May 1980)
by L. Scott Muller

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.

Demographic Factors in the Disability Determination Process: A Logistic Approach
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 43, No. 3 (released March 1980)
by Jesse M. Levy
The Family Labor Supply Response to Disabling Conditions
ORES Working Paper No. 10 (released August 1979)
by L. Scott Muller, Jesse M. Levy, and Malcolm B. Coate

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.

Disability Claimants Who Contest Denials and Win Reversals Through Hearings
ORES Working Paper No. 3 (released February 1979)
by Ralph Treitel

This paper presents the social and demographic characteristics of those disability claimants whose cases go to hearing. Particular attention is given to how these characteristics may be related to (1) the individual decision to contest a denial or accept it; (2) the general increase in disability claims and contested applications in recent years; and (3) the high proportion of reversals in hearings.

Disability Beneficiary Recovery
ORES Working Paper No. 2 (released February 1979)
by Ralph Treitel

In recent years, the number of workers awarded disability insurance benefits has rapidly increased, while there has been no corresponding increase in the numbers leaving the rolls for recovery. Concern has been expressed that cash benefit payments may be leading to disincentives to beneficiaries to return to work after medical improvement

To examine this question, a comparative analysis was made of the demographic, disability, and benefit characteristics of a sample of disabled workers who left the benefit rolls for recovery in contrast to the characteristics of those who remained on the rolls after award of disability benefits in 1972. Characteristics related to greater recovery included younger age, higher education, disability due to traumatic injury, residence in western states.

The 1973 CPS-IRS-SSA Exact Match Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 10 (released October 1978)
by Beth Kilss and Frederick J. Scheuren
1972 Survey of Disabled and Nondisabled Adults: Chronic Disease, Injury, and Work Disability
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 4 (released April 1978)
by Aaron Krute and Mary Ellen Burdette
Impact of Disability on the Family Structure
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 5 (released May 1977)
by Paula A. Franklin
Disability Insurance: Program Issues and Research
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 10 (released October 1976)
by Mordechai E. Lando and Aaron Krute
First Findings of the 1972 Survey of the Disabled: General Characteristics
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 10 (released October 1976)
by Kathryn H. Allan
Demographic Characteristics of Disability Applicants: Relationship to Allowances
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 5 (released May 1976)
by Mordechai E. Lando
The Economic Cost of Illness Revisited
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 2 (released February 1976)
by Barbara S. Cooper and Dorothy P. Rice
Effect of Financing Disabled Beneficiary Rehabilitation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 11 (released November 1975)
by Ralph Treitel
Constant-Attendance Allowances for Non-Work-Related Disability
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 11 (released November 1974)
by Martin B. Tracy
Benefits for Grandchildren and Certain Blind Persons Under 1972 Amendments
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 6 (released June 1974)
by Barbara A. Lingg
Three Decades of Social Security Research Publishing: The Bulletin Turns Thirty
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 3 (released March 1968)
Disability Insurance and Aid to the Blind
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 30, No. 8 (released August 1967)
by Philip Frohlich
Review of Cooperative Research and Demonstration Grant Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 3 (released March 1965)
by Donald M. Pilcher
Delayed Filing for Disability Benefits Under the Social Security Act
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 27, No. 10 (released October 1964)
by Barbara Levenson and Aaron Krute
Five Years of Disability Insurance Benefits: A Progress Report
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 7 (released July 1962)
by Arthur E. Hess
Disability Insurance Benefits in Current-Payments Status, by State, February 28, 1959
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 1 (released January 1960)
Disability Benefit Awards Affected by the Offset Provision, July–October 1957
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 3 (released March 1958)
Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance: Early Problems and Operations of the Disability Provisions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 12 (released December 1957)
by Arthur E. Hess
Estimated Prevalence of Long-Term Disability, 1954
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 18, No. 6 (released June 1955)
by Alfred M. Skolnik
Medical Advisory Committee on the Disability Freeze
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 18, No. 5 (released May 1955)
by Arthur E. Hess
Estimated Prevalence of Blindness in the United States, July 1952
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 7 (released July 1953)
by Ralph G. Hurlin
Initial Effect of the 1952 Amendments on Assistance Payments
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 1 (released January 1953)
Disability Protection Under Public Programs
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 11, No. 6 (released June 1948)
by Dorothy McCamman
The Prevalence of Disability Recorded Through Four Monthly Sample Surveys
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 8 (released August 1943)
by Barkev S. Sanders and David Federman
The Prevalence of Disability in the United States With Special Reference to Disability Insurance
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 1 (released January 1941)
by I. S. Falk and Barkev S. Sanders
A Review of State Legislation Relating to Medical Services and to Cash Payments for Disability, Proposed During 1939
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 1 (released January 1940)
by Marjorie Shearon