Completing the Picture: Key Features of the Social Security Disability Insurance Program. Endnotes



  1. The disability beneficiaries do not include the approximately 2.7 million disabled adult children of Social Security retirees or deceased workers, or the 637,000 disabled widows of deceased workers. Technically, these beneficiaries are not SSDI beneficiaries because their benefits, expected to total about $25 billion in 2013, are paid from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.

  2. The SSDI benefit counts as unearned income and offsets the SSI payment.

  3. See

  4. Work incentives, subsidies, and special conditions, such as impairment-related work expenses and unsuccessful work attempts (UWAs), enable some people to earn more than the SGA level. See for a full description of SSDI work incentives.

  5. Earnings are not counted if the beneficiary's work attempt is unsuccessful. An UWA occurs when work is terminated or reduced within six months or less because of the impairment or because work supports or special conditions necessary to maintain the employment are removed. If the claim has not been adjudicated before the work attempt occurs, the work is evaluated to determine if a UWA has occurred.

  6. See

  7. After SSA determines that an applicant meets the medical eligibility criteria, he or she remains eligible until SSA determines that the person's medical condition has sufficiently improved or that he or she has engaged in SGA for a sustained period. In practice, substantial backlogs in SSA's reviews of medical conditions and work activities have led to retroactive terminations, long after payments should have stopped. SSA recovers some, but not all, overpayments in such cases.

  8. Of the 62.5 percent of 2008 claims denied initially, 47.4 percent (or 29.4 percent of initial claims) were appealed. Most appeals are first reconsidered by another examiner at the same DDS office where the claim was denied. Some initial demands and all second denials that are appealed are heard by an ALJ. About half of all applications considered by an ALJ are approved. By October 2010, 21.2 percent of applications submitted in 2008 had been appealed to the ALJ level; of those, 50.9 percent were allowed, 30.2 percent were denied, and 18.9 percent were still pending. See for statistics on SSDI allowance rates.

  9. See

  10. See

  11. The Ticket Act also expanded states' options for adopting a Medicaid Buy-In Program, which allows people with disabilities to purchase Medicaid coverage on a sliding scale based on their income. This program allows SSDI-eligible workers to obtain Medicaid coverage for health and disability services, including many services not covered by private insurance or Medicare.

  12. See, for example, Smith (2013).

  13. Supported employment helps people with severe disabilities obtain and maintain jobs in integrated settings. This type of assistance may include job coaching, job-development, job retention, transportation, assistive technology, specialized job training, and individually tailored supervision (Bond et al. 2004).

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