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Vocational Rehabilitation on the Road to Social Security Disability: Longitudinal Statistics from Matched Administrative Data


  • David C. Stapleton

    (Mathematica Policy Research)

  • Frank H. Martin

    (Mathematica Policy Research)


Vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies can potentially help disability-insured workers stay at work or return to work when they experience the onset of a disabling physical or mental condition. Such assistance could prevent or delay their exit from the labor force and entry into the Social Security disability (SSD) rolls. This study presents new descriptive information on the extent to which VR applicants receive SSD benefits before or after VR application. The analyses show that substantial numbers of VR applicants entered SSD in the 60 months following VR application -- more than 50,000 (11.3 percent) of the first-time VR applicants in 2003. SSD entry varies with VR applicant characteristics; those with relatively high SSD entry include non-Hispanic whites, those not employed at application, those with more than a high school education, and especially those already in SSI but not SSD. There is also wide variation in SSD entry across states, with some states having entry percentages twice as high as others. We also found a positive relationship between our measure of wait time and entry into SSD, and we discuss strategies to estimate the causal effect of wait time on SSD entry -- an effect that could theoretically be in either direction. Although the large number of VR applicants entering SSD after VR application is modest compared to the number receiving an SSD award each year, the impact that VR services have on later SSD and Medicare expenditures could be in the billions of dollars annually, in either direction.

Suggested Citation

  • David C. Stapleton & Frank H. Martin, 2012. "Vocational Rehabilitation on the Road to Social Security Disability: Longitudinal Statistics from Matched Administrative Data," Working Papers wp269, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp269

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    1. repec:mpr:mprres:7214 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Rochelle V. Habeck & H. Allan Hunt & Colleen Head Rachel & John Kregel & Fong Chan, "undated". "Employee Retention and Integrated Disability Management Practices as Demand Side Factors," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles hah2010, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    3. David R. Mann & David C. Stapleton, 2011. "Fiscal Austerity and the Transition to Twenty-First Century Disability Policy: A Road Map," Mathematica Policy Research Reports a469448f0c224f3797e584c8c, Mathematica Policy Research.
    4. repec:eee:irlaec:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:58-73 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. David C. Stapleton & Yonatan Ben-Shalom & David R. Mann, 2015. "The Employment/Eligibility Service System: A New Gateway for Employment Supports and Social Security Disability Benefits," Mathematica Policy Research Reports d8835946ad2743028b4b7acfc, Mathematica Policy Research.
    2. David Dean & John Pepper & Robert Schmidt & Steven Stern, 2014. "State vocational rehabilitation programs and federal disability insurance: an analysis of Virginia’s vocational rehabilitation program," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-19, December.

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