Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Disability Benefits Suspended or Terminated Because of Work

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Disability Benefits Suspended or Terminated Because of Work

Article excerpt

We use a new variable in the Social Security Administration's Ticket Research File to produce statistics on the first month of suspension or termination for work (STW) for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)-only beneficiaries as well as on the number of months in nonpayment status following suspension or termination for work (NSTW) before their return to the rolls, attainment of the full retirement age, or death-in each year from 2002 through 2006. Less than 1 percent of beneficiaries experienced their first STW in each year, but more were in NSTW in at least 1 month. Ticket to Work (TTW) participants were more likely to have a first STW than nonparticipants, but most of those who had an STW were not TTW participants, reflecting low use of TTW. Employment networks often failed to file claims for outcome payments during months when their TTW clients were in NSTW.

Selected Abbreviations

DI Disability Insurance

EN employment network

FRA full retirement age

MO milestone outcome

NSTW nonpayment status following suspension or termination for work

OO outcome only

SGA substantial gainful activity

SSA Social Security Administration

SSI Supplemental Security Income

SVRA state vocational rehabilitation agency

STW suspension or termination for work

TRF Ticket Research File

TTW Ticket to Work

TWP trial work period

Introduction

The benefits of only a small share of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)-only beneficiaries are terminated each year because of work-about one-half of 1 percent of DI participants and an even smaller percentage of SSI-only participants (O'Leary, Livermore, and Stapleton 2011). Terminations provide only a partial picture of the extent to which beneficiaries forego benefits because of work, however, for two reasons. First, a substantial number of beneficiaries have their benefits suspended for work-many more than the number whose benefits are eventually terminated for work. Second, beneficiaries may remain in nonpayment status for many months, even years, after suspension or termination for work occurs. In any month, the total number of beneficiaries or former beneficiaries who are in nonpayment status following benefit suspension or termination for work is far larger than the number first suspended or terminated for work in the same month, even after excluding months after the beneficiary attains the full retirement age (FRA) or dies.

Recent efforts to increase beneficiary employment and program exits for work have heightened interest in counting the number of months in which beneficiaries and former beneficiaries forego benefits because of work. One specific objective of the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Ticket to Work (TTW) program, launched in 2002, was to increase the number of such months. To achieve this objective, TTW expanded the types of organizations SSA would pay to support beneficiaries' employment efforts. The new providers, called employment networks (ENs), became eligible to receive payments under TTW's milestone-outcome (MO) or outcome-only (OO) payment systems, whichever they preferred. Both of these new payment systems offer outcome payments to ENs in months when their clients are in nonpayment status because of work.1 State vocational rehabilitation agencies (SVRAs) could also choose to use one of the new payment systems. SVRAs were also allowed to continue to use a "traditional" payment system, which ties cost reimbursement payments to attainment of an earnings objective, without regard to benefit suspension or termination for work, on a case-by-case basis, provided that they obtained the beneficiary's "ticket." During the 5-year period examined in this article, from 2002 through 2006, the traditional payment system was considered to be a TTW payment system, although regulatory modifications changed that in July 2008. …

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