Social Security:

Little Success Achieved in Rehabilitating Disabled Beneficiaries

HRD-88-11: Published: Dec 7, 1987. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the relationship between the Social Security Disability Insurance Program and state vocational rehabilitation programs to determine how to change the current program to rehabilitate larger numbers of disability applicants.

GAO found that: (1) only 10 to 15 percent of disability beneficiaries were realistic prospects for rehabilitation; (2) because of the economic disincentives, many beneficiaries preferred to retain their disability benefits rather than work; (3) although some states made a greater effort to refer disability beneficiaries to vocational rehabilitation agencies, there was little variation among the states in the percentage of beneficiaries who left the benefit rolls after receiving rehabilitation services; (4) many beneficiaries would participate in rehabilitation programs if they continued to receive coverage and their disability benefits based on a scale related to their earned income; (5) although Congress mandated that the Social Security Administration (SSA) test benefits reductions based on earnings, SSA had not done so; and (6) SSA was concerned that working persons who met the medical disability criteria, but had not applied for benefits, would file applications if they could supplement their income with reduced benefits.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: After discussions between Congress and the agency, the agency does not have the resources to ensure success to perform such a demonstration project. Under today's environment, it is doubtful this will change.

    Matter: The number of beneficiaries who return to work possibly could be increased through some changes in the benefits payment structure. If Congress wishes to explore this option, it could direct SSA to carry out a demonstration project that uses a sliding benefits scale as authorized by the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980.


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