Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Disability Insurance Beneficiaries with Visual Impairments in Vocational Rehabilitation: Socio-Demographic Influences on Employment

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Disability Insurance Beneficiaries with Visual Impairments in Vocational Rehabilitation: Socio-Demographic Influences on Employment

Article excerpt

Costs for the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) program represent the single largest expenditure in the federal budget, and outlays for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are significant components of it (U.S. Office of Management and Budget [OMB], 2012; SSA, 2012b). Many SSA beneficiaries are consumers in state-federal vocational rehabilitation programs, but information is sparse about the influence of SSA on their employment outcomes. In view of the considerable annual costs for SSI and SSDI outlays, there would be substantial benefits to SSA, vocational rehabilitation, and individual vocational rehabilitation consumers from a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to improved employment outcomes for SSDI beneficiaries who are visually impaired (that is, those who are blind or have low vision). Investigation of the employment outcomes for this population is the focus of the study presented here.

SSA and vocational rehabilitation

Outlays for SSDI and SSI benefits were approximately $200 billion in 2011, and costs are increasing (SSA, 2012b). In the same year, approximately $3 billion was available to vocational rehabilitation agencies to provide a variety of services for people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, or retain employment (Rehabilitation Services Administration [RSA], Grants and Funding, 2011). A significant portion of SSA beneficiaries receive vocational rehabilitation services. Of about 600,000 individuals whose cases are closed annually, over 25% of those completing vocational rehabilitation are SSI or SSDI beneficiaries. In fiscal year 2011, for example, about 28% percent of all closures were SSA beneficiaries at application for vocational rehabilitation; over half of these were SSDI recipients (Giesen, 2012).

A large proportion of vocational rehabilitation consumers who are visually impaired are SSI or SSDI beneficiaries. Based on fiscal year 2011 vocational rehabilitation data, approximately 23% of those with some visual impairment and 56% of those who were legally blind were SSI or SSDI beneficiaries at application--34% of the legally blind group were SSDI beneficiaries. Thus, about one-third--a significant fraction--of the vocational rehabilitation consumers who were legally blind were SSDI recipients in 2011 (Giesen, 2012). Consequently, in addition to the need for vocational rehabilitation to improve outcomes for all consumers, SSA has a substantial ongoing interest in the success of vocational rehabilitation agencies in achieving employment for SSI and SSDI recipients, including individuals who are visually impaired.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH

General disabilities--SSI and SSDI

A number of investigations have examined correlates or predictors of employment outcomes after vocational rehabilitation for SSI-SSDI combined and SSI-only beneficiary populations of all disability types (see, for example, Hennessey & Muller, 1995; Rogers, Bishop, & Crystal, 2005), including transition-age youths with disabilities (Berry & Caplan, 2010). Generally, advantage factors were being white and male; having more education, greater family income, and better health; and receiving SSDI (versus SSI) services for physical therapy, vocational training, general education, job placement, restoration, and college training. However, Berry and Caplan (2010) found some paradoxical and inconsistent effects (for example, disadvantages related to college and job-placement factors) when examining employment of individuals with disabilities after two years.

Agency-level outcomes. A few studies including all disability types have examined aggregate vocational rehabilitation agency-level outcome measures rather than individual outcomes (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2007a; 2007b). The 2007b study focused on state agency outcomes (for example, average earnings, departures from SSI rolls). …

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