To Apply or Not to Apply: The Employment and Program Participation of Social Security Disability Insurance Applicants and Non-Applicants

DRC Working Paper, 2014-05
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy
Jun 15, 2014
Authors
Allison Thompkins, Todd Honeycutt, Claire Gill, Joseph Mastrianni, and Michelle Bailey
  • DI applicants are older and less educated, have significantly less income and lower employment rates, and receive poverty-related benefits at higher rates than the general population, especially in the six months before applying for DI.
  • There are similar trends among applicants and non-applicants within our seven at-risk groups.
From 1992 to 2012, enrollment in the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program increased from 4.7 million people to 8.7 million people, but the number of beneficiaries leaving the program to return to work remained very small. The U.S. government has implemented several programs to reduce federal expenditures on DI and help beneficiaries return to work, but the limited success of these efforts has raised interest in approaches that help workers with disabilities remain in the workforce. The focus of this paper is to provide information on the services and supports used by workers with disabilities at risk of applying for DI and to help build the evidence base for policies that enable workers with disabilities to avoid applying for DI and for the supports necessary to keep them in the workforce. Using three panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation matched to SSA administrative data, we answer questions about the demographic, employment, and program participation characteristics of DI; beneficiaries before and after they apply for DI, and of individuals at risk of applying for DI. 


We find that DI applicants are older and less educated, have significantly less income and lower employment rates, and receive poverty-related benefits at higher rates than the general population, especially in the six months before applying for DI. We observe similar trends among applicants and non-applicants within our seven at-risk groups. Based on this analysis, we identify particular at-risk groups that might benefit from receiving early intervention services.

Project

Disability Research Consortium

Funders

Social Security Administration

Time Frame

2012-2015