NCD on Social Security and Employment for People with Disabilities
Our nation's current disability benefit programs are based on a policy principle that assumes that the presence of a significant disability and lack of substantial earnings equate with a complete inability to work. Americans with disabilities remain underemployed, despite the fact that many are willing and able to work. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) has instituted a number of incentives to reduce the numerous obstacles to employment faced by its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries, such efforts have had little impact because few beneficiaries are aware of these incentives and how they affect benefits and access to health care.
In recent times there has not been a comprehensive, research-based examination of the practices that are most likely to support the employment of SSI and DI beneficiaries. NCD undertook this study to address that absence and found that the complex obstacles to employment faced by SSA beneficiaries require a comprehensive set of solutions. New approaches must be identified that emphasize beneficiary control of career planning and the ability to access self-selected services and supports. Public and private health care providers must develop new collaborations and new approaches to combining coverage from multiple sources to improve program efficiencies. SSA must continue to work with the Rehabilitation Services Administration and the Department of Labor to improve implementation of the Ticket to Work program and identify new approaches that will overcome the traditional inability of SSA beneficiaries to benefit from services provided by the nation's employment and training programs. Secondary and postsecondary educational institutions must emphasize benefits counseling and financial management training as the foundation for beneficiary self-direction and economic self-sufficiency. Federal agencies and the business community must realize that collaborative approaches to incorporating beneficiaries into the workforce are needed as a way to reduce dependence on federal benefits while simultaneously enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of large and small business.
The recommendations discussed in this report need to be addressed in policy and procedural modifications by both Congress and the Social Security Administration to significantly address the continuing number of SSA beneficiaries who never leave the SSI and DI rolls, and to increase the number of beneficiaries who enter, or reenter, the United States workforce.