Paths Taken By New Awardees of Federal Disability Benefits

DRC Brief Number: 2016-06
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research
May 30, 2016
Priyanka Anand and Yonatan Ben-Shalom

Key Findings:

  • 80 percent of DI-first awardees and 53 percent of SSI-first awardees either achieved no additional milestones of any kind in the 10 years after their initial award or died or attained full retirement age before reaching any other milestone.
  • 6 percent of DI-first awardees subsequently received SSI, and nearly 25 percent of SSI-first awardees subsequently received DI. Both DI-first and SSI-first awardees in top 10 paths who achieved work-related milestones were more likely to be younger than age 45; DI-first awardees in these paths were also more likely to have more than a high school education.
In 2014, nearly 13 million working-age people with disabilities received benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs (Social Security Administration [SSA] 2015a). That same year, 8.2 percent of DI beneficiaries and 10.5 percent of SSI recipients left the rolls of those programs for reasons including their death, attainment of full retirement age (FRA), disqualifying income level, or improvement in their medical condition (SSA 2015a, SSA 2015b). Little is known, however, about the many possible paths that beneficiaries take while they are on the program rolls. Better information about the factors that differentiate awardees who take diverse paths after they enter the program could help policymakers develop programs that are tailored to the needs and circumstances of beneficiaries who share particular characteristics (for example, age, gender, and program type).
Senior Staff

Yonatan Ben-Shalom
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