Trends in Disability Program Participation
(Poverty and Income Policy)
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Yonatan Ben-Shalom, Mathematica Policy Research
Panel Chairs: Richard Burkhauser, Cornell University
Discussants: Philip Armour, RAND Corporation and Stephanie Rennane, University of Maryland
The three papers included in this panel address various factors associated with recent trends in federal disability program participation, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and veterans’ Disability Compensation.
The first paper in this panel, “Are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Beneficiaries Entering the Rolls Sooner and Staying Longer? Evidence from Birth Cohorts 1956–1997”, examines trends in incidence of SSDI entry by young workers, which are largely overlooked in most analyses of program growth and proposals for policy reforms. The authors use SSA actuarial data, Census population estimates, and CDC mortality data to examine three hypotheses: (1) the percentage of each birth cohort that enters SSDI by each age has grown substantially from the 1956 birth cohort to the 1997 birth cohort; (2) an increasingly large share of older SSDI beneficiaries consists of those who entered the program as young adults due to increased entry at early ages and increased longevity; and (3) policy changes, administrative changes, and changes in the economy have led to shifts in the proportion of birth cohorts entering SSDI by each age.
The second paper in this panel, “Are Disability Applicants Unhealthier than Ever?”, examines whether more SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants are receiving benefits because they are less healthy now than in previous years. The authors use a unique dataset that combines administrative SSDI and SSI records from SSA with health measures and personal characteristics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine whether SSDI and SSI applicants are more likely to report negative health outcomes one year or more before application, and whether their health differs by age or the application’s ultimate success. Their results indicate there is no evidence to support the claim that the health of SSDI and SSI applicants has declined over time.
The third paper in this panel, “Did the 2010 VA PTSD Rule Change Affect Disability Compensation Receipt?”, estimates the impact of a new rule that simplifies the process for obtaining disability compensation for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The new regulation, implemented in July 2010, states that the Veterans Administration (VA) will grant disability compensation to those with PTSD if they can prove that they served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the PTSD-causing event or events; prior to the new rule, non-combat veterans had to prove that a specific “hostile military activity” caused his or her PTSD. The authors use the 2007–2013 waves of the Current Population Survey’s Veterans Supplement to examine whether the PTSD rule change led to an increase in self-reported cognitive disability and VA disability compensation receipt for veterans who served in combat zones.