Vocational Rehabilitation: A Bridge to Self-Sufficiency for Youth Who Receive Supplemental Security Income?

DRC Brief Number 2017-03
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research
Apr 12, 2017
Authors
Denise Hoffman, Jeffrey Hemmeter, and Michelle Stegman Bailey

Key Findings:

  • In 2001, 13 percent of youth SSI recipients ages 14 to 17 reported receiving VR services. Thirteen years later, when these individuals were ages 27 to 30, a higher proportion had substantial earnings and a lower proportion received SSI compared with other SSI recipients who did not receive VR services, holding observable characteristics constant.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are presumed eligible for vocational rehabilitation services and youth who receive SSI may access those services as they prepare for the transition from school to work. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) is intended to help youth with disabilities become employed and maintain employment and thereby lessen their reliance on disability benefits in adulthood. In passing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014, policymakers sought to expand VR and complementary services for transition-age youth with disabilities, in part to improve their employment outcomes in adulthood and decrease their reliance on benefits. In this brief, we document the rates of participation in VR by youth SSI recipients, describe the characteristics of youth who receive VR, and report on the association between youth’s VR participation and their employment and benefit outcomes in adulthood. Our findings indicate that, in 2001, 13 percent of youth SSI recipients ages 14 to 17 reported receiving VR services. Thirteen years later, when these individuals were ages 27 to 30, a higher proportion had substantial earnings and a lower proportion received SSI compared with other SSI recipients who did not receive VR services, holding observable characteristics constant. We cannot determine the extent to which the associations between VR and these adult outcomes reflect unobserved differences between youth who participate in VR and those who do not versus the effect of VR services on outcomes. Nonetheless, the promising associations between VR and long-term adult outcomes highlight the potential benefits of providing early support to transition-age youth.