Do Older SSDI Applicants Denied Benefits on the Basis of their Work Capacity Return to Work After Denial?

DRC Brief Number: 2018-01
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research
Jul 09, 2018
Jody Schimmel Hyde and April Yanuyan Wu

Key Findings:

  • Very few older denied SSDI applicants returned to work in the years following denial.
  • Among those who worked in the years before or after application, average earnings were lower after initial denial relative to before applying for SSDI.
  • The majority of older SSDI applicants denied on the basis of residual work capacity ultimately receive SSDI before full retirement age (FRA), either after appeal or reapplication.
In this issue brief, we document the post-denial employment and benefit experiences of older applicants who are initially denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for “work capacity” reasons. Specifically, a disability examiner determined that these applicants had a severe impairment, but denied benefits because the applicants’ residual functional capacity allowed them to perform past work or other work. For simplicity, we use “work capacity” denials for these cases, though that is not SSA’s official nomenclature. We follow the experience of older SSDI applicants from the time they receive an initial denial for SSDI benefits through full retirement age (FRA; age 65 or 66, depending on their birth year). The information in this brief highlights findings from a longer manuscript (Schimmel Hyde et al. 2018). Our findings shed light on the types of policies that might be most beneficial to older workers who experience disability onset to remain working and therefore delay claiming Social Security benefits.
Senior Staff

April Yanyuan Wu
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Jody Schimmel Hyde
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