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Mathematica Examines Federal Support for Working-Age People with Disabilities
Issue Brief Suggests Solutions to Current Inefficiencies

Contact: Amy Berridge, (609) 945-3378

WASHINGTON, DC—September 8, 2011—A paper published today in Health Affairs and an accompanying issue brief—both prepared by experts at Mathematica Policy Research—show that in fiscal year 2008, the federal government spent $357 billion to assist working-age people with disabilities, representing 12 percent of all federal spending. The states provided an additional $71 billion, mostly in Medicaid payments. Despite this more than $428 billion in total spending, services provided to those with disabilities are often fragmented, confusing, and ultimately less effective than they could be. Mathematica's brief documents how the expenditures are spread across multiple agencies that oversee more than 60 different programs to help working-age people with disabilities.

“These numbers are too large for fiscal reformers to ignore,” said David Stapleton, senior fellow and director of Mathematica’s Center for Studying Disability Policy, and co-author of the paper, “Now is the ideal time for policymakers to reshape federal disability policy. They should continue to address the needs of people with disabilities in the short term, while making smart investments that reduce costs over the long term. Working-age people are seeking greater independence but often are misperceived as unemployable. More of the considerable resources currently spent to assist these individuals should go toward helping them get and keep good jobs. This would enhance both their livelihood and the U.S. economy.”

The brief explains how, under the existing system based on programs created during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, the government largely serves a caretaker role. The authors point out that this model runs contrary to the current goal of “maximizing self-sufficiency” embraced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and fails to direct funds in ways that have the most potential benefit to help those with disabilities join, remain in, or return to the U.S. workforce.

Read the brief.

Read the article.

About the Center for Studying Disability Policy: The Center for Studying Disability Policy’s mission is to inform disability policy formation with rigorous, objective research and data collected from the people disability policy aims to serve. The center was formed in 2007 to coalesce and further strengthen Mathematica’s extensive disability policy research and data collection efforts, and to ensure that the results of Mathematica’s work are accessible to the disability policy community.

About Mathematica: Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J., Ann Arbor, Mich., Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Ill., Oakland, Calif., and Washington, D.C., has conducted some of the most important studies of health care, education, international, disability, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.