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

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Duggan & Robert Rosenheck & Perry Singleton, 2006. "Federal Policy and the Rise in Disability Enrollment: Evidence for the VA's Disability Compensation Program," NBER Working Papers 12323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12323 Note: HC PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Angrist, Joshua D. & Chen, Stacey H. & Frandsen, Brigham R., 2010. "Did Vietnam veterans get sicker in the 1990s? The complicated effects of military service on self-reported health," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 824-837, December.
    2. Courtney C. Coile & Phillip B. Levine, 2007. "Labor Market Shocks and Retirement: Do Government Programs Matter?," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1902-1919 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David H. Autor & Mark Duggan & Kyle Greenberg & David S. Lyle, 2016. "The Impact of Disability Benefits on Labor Supply: Evidence from the VA's Disability Compensation Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 31-68, July.
    4. 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.
    5. Mark Duggan & Robert Rosenheck & Perry Singleton, 2010. "Federal Policy and the Rise in Disability Enrollment: Evidence for the Veterans Affairs' Disability Compensation Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(2), pages 379-398, May.
    6. 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.
    7. Perry Singleton, 2009. "The Effect of Disability Insurance on Health Investment: Evidence from the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Disability Compensation Program," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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