SSA Disability Programs:

Fully Updating Disability Criteria Has Implications for Program Design

GAO-02-919T: Published: Jul 11, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2002.

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Since the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs began, much has changed and continues to change in medicine, technology, the economy, and societal views and expectations of people with disabilities. GAO found that scientific advances, changes in the nature of work, and social changes have generally enhanced the potential for people with disabilities to work. Medical advances, such as organ transplantation, and assistive technologies, such as advances in wheelchair design, have given more independence to some individuals. At the same time, a service- and knowledge-based economy has opened new opportunities for people with disabilities, and societal changes have fostered the expectation that people with disabilities can work and have the right to work. GAO further found that DI and SSI disability criteria have not kept pace with these advances and changes. Depending on the claimant's impairment, decisions about eligibility benefits can be based on both medical and labor market criteria. Finally, some steps to incorporate these advances and changes can be taken within the existing programs' design, but some would require more fundamental changes.

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