Panel: Understanding Trends in Federal Disability Programs
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
8209 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Erin Godtland, U.S. Government Accountability Office
Discussants:  Rhiannon Claire Patterson, U.S. Government Accountability Office and Joel Feinleib, Social Security Advisory Board

The Short- and Long-Term Effect of Job Displacement on Claiming and Receipt of Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
Jae Song, Social Security Administration and Till Von Wachter, Columbia University

Social Security Disability: Variation in Disability Awards at the Appeals Level
Rachael Chamberlin, Jeff Tessin, Rhiannon Claire Patterson, Erin Godtland and Charlie Jeszeck, U.S. Government Accountability Office

This panel will focus on understanding key determinants of trends in disability applications, appeals rates, and award rates at the appeals level in the Social Security Administration’s disability programs--two of the largest federal safety net programs.  Through original empirical analysis of SSA administrative data and other data sources these papers explore the factors driving disability applications, decisions to undertake the lengthy and sometimes arduous appeal process, and benefit awards. Specifically, the first paper uses administrative data on workers and their employers to examine the impact of job displacement on applications to the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program. It sheds light on the impact of economic fluctuations on the DI program. The second paper focuses on how changes to the length of the appeal process in SSA’s disability program affect the composition of beneficiaries who choose to appeal their initial denial. Using a new dataset that tracks SSDI and SSI applications submitted from 1990 through the various levels of appeal, the paper examines how longer wait times for hearings affect the types of prospective beneficiaries who choose to appeal (e.g. those more likely to be deemed “eligible” by SSA and/or those with higher levels of liquidity). The findings in this paper have implications for past and future structural changes to the disability application process, such as the decision to eliminate the reconsideration level in 10 states. The last paper examines the sources of variation in award rates at SSA’s appeals level--the rate at which judges award disability benefits to be paid when claimants appeal their initial disability decision. Using a statistical model to analyze SSA data on adult disability decisions between 2007 and 2015, this paper examines the sources of variation in judges’ decisions after controlling for differences in claimant, judicial, and other administrative factors. The analysis identifies key factors associated with being awarded benefits, such as having an attorney representative, and other factors that are not significantly associated with the likelihood of being awarded benefits.

See more of: Poverty and Income Policy
See more of: Panel