Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Profile of Social Security Disabled Workers and Dependents Who Have a Connection to Workers' Compensation or Public Disability Benefits

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Profile of Social Security Disabled Workers and Dependents Who Have a Connection to Workers' Compensation or Public Disability Benefits

Article excerpt

Summary

This note explores the characteristics of Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries and their dependents who also have a connection to workers' compensation (WC) and/or public disability benefits (PDBs). As of December 2008, 8.3 percent of the 9.2 million DI beneficiaries and their dependents had filed for either WC or PDBs. We compare that population to the general DI population by such attributes as age, sex, primary insurance amount, state, diagnosis, and days between disability onset and filing for DI benefits. Of special interest are states, such as California, with large nonoccupational public disability programs. Because California drives much of public disability take-up in the Social Security Administration's San Francisco region and indeed a majority of DI beneficiaries with a connection to PDBs reside in this state, we have included a special focus on California in our analysis.

Introduction

Since 1956, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has provided cash benefits to workers with severe, long-term disabilities who have worked in Social Security-covered employment for the required length of time. Spouses and children of disabled workers may also be eligible for benefits.

Workers' compensation (WC), a state-based program that predates Social Security, provides cash benefits and medical care when employees suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (DI), WC is payable only for work-related injuries and illness. In addition, five states-New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii-and Puerto Rico have public disability programs that partially compensate for the loss of wages caused by temporary nonoccupational disability or maternity. Although only those five states and Puerto Rico have general public disability programs for nonoccupational illnesses and injuries, the term "public disability" also refers to certain local programs offered in many states as well as disability coverage for federal government workers.

A significant number of DI beneficiaries also receive state WC and/or public disability benefits (PDBs). Because SSA offsets a portion of the DI benefit in certain cases when a beneficiary is also receiving another disability benefit, the receipt of WC or PDBs presents important administrative issues for the agency. Additionally, people receiving those benefits may have a more recent connection to the workforce and therefore it should be easier to engage them in work incentives, making their characteristics of special interest to SSA. As of December 2008, 8.3 percent of the 9.2 million DI beneficiaries and their dependents had filed for either WC or PDBs.1 About 7.4 percent had filed for WC, while 1.2 percent had filed for PDBs.2 Because the offset applies first to the dependent's share of the benefit and next to the worker's share, a greater proportion of dependent beneficiaries (10.4 percent) than of worker beneficiaries (7.9 percent) had part of their DI benefits offset because the disabled worker was receiving either WC or PDBs.3, 4

In May 2005, the Social Security Bulletin featured several articles on WC, including an assessment of the relationship between DI and WC and a factsheet about the WC offset. In our analysis, we explore the characteristics of DI beneficiaries who have a connection to WC, PDBs, or both, using a data extract from SSA's 2008 Master Beneficiary Record (MBR). We define "connection" as the process of either currently receiving WC and/or PDBs or when the application status for those benefits is pending. We compare workers with this connection to other DI beneficiaries. In general, we find that worker beneficiaries with WC and/or PDBs tend to be older, have higher primary insurance amounts (PIAs), and are more frequently male than the greater DI worker-beneficiary population.5

Legislative Background

The Social Security Amendments of 1955, which instituted disability benefits, also contained an offset provision to prevent duplication of benefits when another federal or state WC periodic benefit was also payable (US Congress 1955). …

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