Oct 23, 2012

Disabled People Who Return To Work Usually Don't Last Long

     From a study by the Center for Studying Disability Policy (footnotes omitted):
Each year, SSA publishes information about work activity among beneficiaries. Those statistics tend to show relatively little beneficiary employment; indeed, only about one percent of beneficiaries each year have had their cash benefits suspended or terminated because of work. However, the statistics do not paint a complete picture of the number who forgo cash benefits for work because they exclude beneficiaries who have worked for a long time and are therefore no longer formally connected to SSA programs. To develop a better idea of how many beneficiaries work, SSA and Mathematica Policy Research developed an indicator for “nonpayment status following suspension or termination for work” (NSTW), based on a complex set of SSA administrative data. This indicator captures all months that beneficiaries have given up cash benefits specifically because of work ...
These statistics show that considerably more beneficiaries are forgoing cash benefits because of work than those reported in SSA’s annual reports. SSA’s published statistics show that fewer than one in 100 beneficiaries in each program have their benefits suspended for work in a typical month. However, our statistics reveal that, during a typical month in 2006, about 2.5 beneficiaries were off cash benefits (with benefits either suspended or terminated) because of work for every 100 receiving a benefit payment ... TTW [Ticket to Work] participants are more likely than other beneficiaries to enter NSTW. In 2006, 3.4 percent of TTW participants had their first NSTW month versus 0.7 percent of nonparticipant beneficiaries. The NSTW indicator also allowed us to assess the incidence of NSTW after Ticket assignment for several years; by the 48th month after assignment, nearly 17 percent of TTW participants had had at least one NSTW month, compared to just under 7 percent after 12 months.
      First, even with the increased return to work numbers this study shows, there still are few disability benefits recipients returning to work. Second, while you can read the chart above as showing that Ticket to Work helps, you can also read it as evidence of selection by Ticket to Work providers or self-selection by beneficiaries. What the chart does show unambiguously is that the vast majority of those on Social Security disability benefits who attempt to return to work don't last long. This study does not confirm the common belief that there are many Social Security disability recipients who have the capacity to return to work if only they're given the right encouragement and help. Even when they really want to and even when they receive a lot of help, few of them succeed in returning to work for the long haul.
     This study is a few months old. There are reasons why you haven't seen Ticket to Work proponents touting it.

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