The RETAIN Demonstration: Practical Implications of State Variation in SSDI Entry

The RETAIN Demonstration: Practical Implications of State Variation in SSDI Entry

Published: Jun 30, 2020
Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica
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Associated Project

Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Evaluation

Time frame: 2018–2023

Prepared for:

Social Security Administration

Key Findings
  • The findings highlight that the RETAIN states differ substantially in terms of the size and risk profile of their target populations (that is, the percentage of the worker population that applies for SSDI).
  • These large state differences suggest a potential need for customizing approaches to identify and support workers following the onset of a disability in ways that might vary substantially by state.
  • Where per capita award rates are relatively low, a state might have to do more extensive screening to identify workers who would most benefit from RETAIN.
  • Based on the county-level data on SSDI awards, RETAIN states are not running their Phase 1 pilots in particularly high-risk areas, which suggests that taking account of these data can indeed make a difference in states’ plans for expansion in Phase 2.

The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) demonstration, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), aims to help workers with recently acquired injuries and disabilities remain in the labor force. In Phase 1 of the RETAIN demonstration, eight states are conducting planning and start-up activities, including the launch of small pilots of the demonstration; DOL will select a subset of these states for full implementation and evaluation in Phase 2. As part of the process, each RETAIN state is developing an approach to identifying a target population that is at risk of applying for disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which could vary by geography, age, impairment, and other factors.

This brief presents findings on state- and county- level SSA administrative data with two goals in mind: (1) to introduce the RETAIN demonstration and its objectives to a broad audience and (2) to support RETAIN states in their planning for Phase 2 of the demonstration. SSDI application rates vary substantially by geography and other characteristics, such as age. This variation underscores that the size and risk profile of the working-age population varies across states. County-level data on SSDI awards also show substantial geographic variation within states. As states plan their intervention and evaluation designs for RETAIN, they might want to adjust their approach to recruiting and screening based on this variation. More broadly, the findings here emphasize the benefits of developing state-based intervention approaches given the large geographic and demographic variation in disability application outcomes by state.

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