Rehabilitating Blind and Disabled Supplemental Security Income Recipients:

Federal Role Needs Assessing

HRD-79-5: Published: Jun 6, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1979.

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The Social Security Amendments of 1972 authorized the use of federal funds to pay for states' costs for vocational rehabilitation services for blind and disabled Supplemental Security Income recipients. Two agencies of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) manage the program. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for establishing policies on referring the blind and disabled to the states as well as evaluating program results. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is responsible for carrying out the program and providing technical assistance to state rehabilitation agencies. State agencies select persons to be served, decide the type and extent of services to be provided, and report to the two HEW agencies. A sample of 544 cases from 14 state agencies in 8 states, which SSA has recorded as successful rehabilitations, was reviewed.

The analysis showed that federal funds spent on the program in 13 of the 14 agencies greatly exceeded the reduction in SSI payments. In 55 percent of the cases, no reductions were attributable to a beneficiary's increase in earned income. The program's management, divided between the two agencies, has not been effective. Although SSA has, or has access to, data which could be used in conjunction with information developed by RSA to measure savings in benefit payments, the agencies have not developed a system that can effectively use the information.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the legislation to establish, as a primary goal of the program, that savings in benefit payments exceed the federal funds spent. In this regard, after HEW has provided sufficient data to reliably measure the program's effectiveness, if program savings do not meet or exceed federal costs, Congress should consider the following options: (1) eliminate the Supplemental Security Income-Vocational Rehabilitation (SSI-VR) program and, instead, earmark funds under the basic rehabilitation program for eligible SSI persons; and (2) continue the SSI-VR program with funding levels for the states based on the demonstrated effectiveness of each state's program as measured by the extent that benefit payment reductions exceed federal funds spent.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary, HEW, should designate a single entity to oversee the SSI-VR program management activities of RSA and SSA and require the Commissioners of each agency to finalize an agreement identifying their responsibilities. After a management system has been established, HEW should monitor individual states' program effectiveness to: (1) evaluate the adequacy of federal technical assistance, and (2) determine whether the program is the most cost-effective way to provide rehabilitation services to blind or disabled SSI recipients when the same services are available from state rehabilitation agencies through their basic vocational rehabilitation programs.

    Agency Affected:


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