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Federal Policy and the Rise in Disability Enrollment: Evidence for the VA's Disability Compensation Program

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  • Mark Duggan
  • Robert Rosenheck
  • Perry Singleton

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) currently provides disability benefits to 2.72 million veterans of U.S. military service through the Disability Compensation (DC) program. Until recently, the medical eligibility criteria for this program were the same across service eras, with the key condition being that the disability was caused or aggravated by military service. But in July of 2001, the VA relaxed the eligibility criteria for Vietnam veterans by including diabetes in the list of conditions covered by DC. This change was motivated by an Institute of Medicine report, which linked exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used by the U.S. military in Vietnam, to the onset of diabetes. In this paper, we investigate the impact of this policy change on DC enrollment, expenditures, and the sensitivity of the program to economic conditions. Our findings demonstrate that the Agent Orange decision increased DC enrollment by 7.6 percentage points among Vietnam veterans and that an additional 3.3 percent enjoyed an increase in their DC benefits. Our estimates further suggest that the policy change increased program expenditures by $2.69 billion during the 2006 fiscal year and by $45 billion in present value terms. After the policy took effect, we find that the sensitivity of the program to local economic conditions increased substantially. Taken together, our results suggest that even relatively narrow changes in the medical eligibility criteria for federal disability programs can have a powerful effect on program enrollment and expenditures.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12323.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12323

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  1. David Autor & Mark Duggan, 2006. "The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding," NBER Working Papers 12436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise In The Disability Rolls And The Decline In Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-205, February.
  3. Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," JCPR Working Papers 18, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  4. Cromwell, Jerry & Hurdle, Sylvia & Wedig, Gerard, 1986. "Impacts of Economic and Programmatic Changes on Medicaid Enrollments," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(2), pages 232-40, May.
  5. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Local Labor Markets and Welfare Spells: Do Demand Conditions Matter?," NBER Working Papers 5643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Mark Duggan & Scott A. Imberman, 2009. "Why Are the Disability Rolls Skyrocketing? The Contribution of Population Characteristics, Economic Conditions, and Program Generosity," NBER Chapters, in: Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly, pages 337-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Bound, John, 1989. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 482-503, June.
  8. James P. Ziliak & Craig Gundersen & David N. Figlio, 2003. "Food Stamp Caseloads over the Business Cycle," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 903-919, April.
  9. Jonathan Gruber, 1996. "Disability Insurance Benefits and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 5866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dan Black & Kermit Daniel & Seth Sanders, 2002. "The Impact of Economic Conditions on Participation in Disability Programs: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 27-50, March.
  11. Kalman Rupp & David C. Stapleton (ed.), 1998. "Growth in Disability Benefits: Explanations and Policy Implications," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number gdb.
  12. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
  13. Bound, John & Burkhauser, Richard V., 1999. "Economic analysis of transfer programs targeted on people with disabilities," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 51, pages 3417-3528 Elsevier.
  14. Richard V. Burkhauser & Mary C. Daly, 1998. "Disability and work: the experiences of American and German men," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pages 17-29.
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Cited by:
  1. Coile, Courtney C. & Levine, Phillip B., 2007. "Labor market shocks and retirement: Do government programs matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 1902-1919, November.
  2. Joshua Angrist & Stacey Chen & Brigham Frandsen, 2009. "Did Vietnam Veterans Get Sicker in the 1990s? The Complicated Effects of Military Service on Self-Reported Health," Working Papers 09-19, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. Joshua D. Angrist & Stacey H. Chen, 2007. "Long-term consequences of vietnam-era conscription: schooling, experience, and earnings," NBER Working Papers 13411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Boyle, Melissa A. & Lahey, Joanna N., 2010. "Health insurance and the labor supply decisions of older workers: Evidence from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expansion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 467-478, August.

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