Aug 11, 2014

How Much Did This Study Cost?

     From Vocational Factors in the Social Security Disability Determination Process:A Literature Review by David Mann and Jeannette de Richemond of the Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy:
At the request of the Social Security Administration (SSA), Mathematica Policy Research conducted a literature review to inform policy discussion about how the disability determination process for the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income program s incorporates consideration of the vocational factors —that is, age, education, and work experience. Specifically, we sought to identify and evaluate existing literature, reports, and studies that could directly support evidence -based conclusions about the following research question: to what extent do age, education, and work experience affect a person’s ability to perform work he or she has not performed before, independent of all other factors, such as health, impairments and limitations, motivation, or general labor market conditions? This research question, developed in consultation with SSA, is narrow in scope and reflects both statutory language about the vocational factors and how SSA currently incorporates them into the disability determination process. 
Our principal finding is that no rigorous evidence directly supports how the disability determination process currently uses vocational factors or how the disability determination process could change their future use. Although we found extensive documentation of relationships between the vocational factors and the extent to which people actually work or perform work-related activities, the documentation does not distinguish between the effects of the vocational factors on the ability to perform new work and the many other potential causes of the observed relationships. We identified only two articles that contained information tangentially relevant to the research question.
     I have three thoughts on looking at this report:
  1. Duh. I could have told you this for free. Lots of people working for Social Security could have told you this for free. It's not like this subject has never come up before.
  2. So either the Social Security Administration is looking for some justification for adjusting how it treats age, education and work experience in determining disability or someone is pressuring Social Security to hunt for some justification for doing this. I'll bet the latter.
  3. I wonder how much these "Beltway Bandits" charged Social Security for this priceless research. By the way, guess what? Even though their research is spectacularly unhelpful, these researchers recommended additional research! I've never read one of these "Beltway Bandit" reports that didn't contain a self-serving recommendation for more research. I'll bet that the first topic covered when Mathematica trains new researchers is that it is company policy that all reports must include a recommendation for additional research.


Anonymous said...

The reality is, the GRIDs must be abolished. They serve no purpose other than to pay people who are fully capable of working. Each case should be assessed on an individual's particular impairments.

This 50 y/o claimant limited to sedentary work is disabled bc..blah, blah, blah. But this other 50 y/o claimant (whose work history was medium) CAN work because blah, blah, blah.

or at least bump up the age categories by 5 years.

Anonymous said...

That's okay, in my experience adjudicators who don't want to follow the grids just bump claimants up to the first exertion level that will enable them to deny a claim.

Anonymous said...

I think the common "additional research is needed" recommendation is not really self-serving. It's just a modest statement that there is not one answer/true answer/only answer to most social science research questions.
Research commonly ends up prompting more and more unanswered questions by the time you get to the end of a research study.