Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Return of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries to the DI Program: Some Insights from the New Beneficiary Followup

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Return of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries to the DI Program: Some Insights from the New Beneficiary Followup

Article excerpt

by Janice M. Dykacz*

Beneficiaries in the DI program may experience a recovery termination. What factors affect their reentitlement to DI benefits? Data from the New Beneficiary Followup was used to model return to the DI program. Those former beneficiaries who had vocational or job training and paid work after the recovery termination showed a lesser tendency to return to the DI program. Younger individuals and those in the highest primary insurance amount quartile also showed a lesser tendency to return.


Growth in the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Disability Insurance (DI) program is a matter of concern to program administrators, members of Congress, and the general public. In 1996, there were 4.4 million disabled-worker beneficiaries and $44.2 billion in benefit payments from the DI Trust Fund (Social Security Administration 1997). As awards increase, program growth will continue unless offset by other events, such as recovery terminations and sustained independence from the DI program.

A study of DI beneficiaries first entitled to benefits in 1980-81 found that approximately one-third of those who had experienced a recovery termination had also returned to the DI program by the end of the study period (Muller 1992). An earlier article (Hennessey and Dykacz 1989) has examined the fate of a 1972 cohort of newly entitled disabled-worker beneficiaries; some 11 percent were projected to leave the DI program due to recovery, 36 percent projected to leave due to death, and 53 percent due to conversion to the retirement program at age 65. Of those who recovered, 43 percent were projected to return to the DI program (Dykacz and Hennessey 1989). Of interest is the insight additional information in the New Beneficiary Followup (NBF) may provide on the tendency to become reentitled. This article examines the effect of many of the factors or covariates used in the analysis of the 1972 cohort on the reentitlement tendency, along with the effect of marital status, knowledge of work-incentive provisions, vocational rehabilitation provisions, pension income, and work history obtained through survey data.


Data have been obtained from the 1991 NBF (Social Security Administration 1993). This sample data set of 6,820 cases consists of 3,881 DI beneficiaries originally interviewed in the New Beneficiary Survey (NBS) in 1982 and an add-on group of 2,939 individuals for whom earnings were posted to the records at some time after entitlement to disability benefits. The purpose of the add-on group was to increase the number in the sample experiencing work attempts and possibly recovery terminations. A large enough sample would be available to examine job patterns, the effect of DI program provisions on work attempts, reasons for returning to work, the effects of workplace accommodations, and the recovery termination event (for more details, see Hennessey and Muller 1994).

The population sampled included all disabled-worker beneficiaries who were initially entitled between June 1980 and June 1981 and who were awarded DI benefits before May 1982, subject to the exclusions listed below. These same exclusions were made in recent articles examining work attempts and rehabilitation efforts and were considered appropriate for this study (Hennessey and Muller 1994, 1995).

A brief description of the exclusions and reasons follow:

(1) Persons who do not acknowledge receipt of benefits near the date of initial entitlement. Respondents were asked to verify the date of entitlement at the beginning of the interview. If, after probing by the interviewer, the respondent could not verify the date of entitlement, certain questions regarding work attempts were skipped. If the respondent could not verify the approximate entitlement date, answers to other questions having a time dimension may not be reliable.

(2) Persons who had a proxy interview. There is some doubt whether answers to questions involving marital history and knowledge of program provisions can be answered accurately by a proxy. …

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