More SSDI Beneficiaries Return to Work Than Commonly Thought

This week’s posts discuss some of the more common criticisms of Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits, and, today, we take up the common refrain from critics that once people get on disability benefits, they never return to work. In fact, this is a concern that not just critics have voiced, but the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) itself has voiced. In its reports on its “Ticket to Work” program, which provides training to disability beneficiaries to return to work, the SSA cites a statistic that “only about one-half of one percent of beneficiaries were exiting because of work when the legislation was passed…”

Like many statistics, the “one-half of one percent” number deserves a closer look, and that’s what several policy experts and statisticians did in their 2010 paper “How Many SSDI Beneficiaries Leave the Rolls for Work? More Than You Might Think.”

It turns out that one problem with the statistic was that it did not fully capture what SSDI beneficiaries were doing. The SSA’s number only looked at beneficiaries who left SSDI in a given year, and it gave the most weight to the beneficiaries with the most severe, often terminal conditions.

The authors of the study approached the numbers in a manner that made more sense – when a given person starts receiving SSDI, when would he or she leave the SSDI rolls? Their approach was to look at the likelihood that each beneficiary would start working again rather than to lump all beneficiaries together over the span of 12 months to see who left SSDI.

The authors found that many more people are working than previously thought. They found that many SSDI beneficiaries are working at some point during their recovery:

  • Amongst workers under 40, nearly half worked for at least a year within 10 years of receiving SSDI benefits
  • The numbers working drop after the age of 40, a change we should expect since injuries that older Americans suffer are typically more severe and are more difficult for older bodies to recover from; additionally, finding work is more difficult for older Americans in the first place, a fact compounded by being disabled

The rules surrounding disability benefits and returning work are often a source of confusion for disabled Americans. If you have recently suffered an injury and would like to learn more about qualifying for SSDI or SSI benefits, give us a call at 918-587-0050 to speak to one of our Tulsa SSI attorneys.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers



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