Social Security Disability:

Demographic and Economic Characteristics of New Beneficiaries

HRD-88-35BR: Published: Jan 22, 1988. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the demographic, health, and economic conditions of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program beneficiaries by analyzing data from a 1982 Social Security Administration survey and obtaining information on the surviving participants' benefit status as of January 1986.

GAO found that: (1) in comparison with the general population, SSDI beneficiaries were older, more likely to be male, and had lower education levels; (2) most disabled beneficiaries reported multiple health problems; (3) six of every seven reported that they were unable to do any work at all; and (4) one out of four beneficiaries were either bedridden or confined to a wheelchair. GAO also found that: (1) income levels for disabled beneficiaries were generally very low, especially for unmarried individuals; (2) total net median worth for disabled beneficiaries under the age of 55 was about $54, compared with $1,114 for those aged 55 through 64, and $14,000 for retired beneficiaries; (3) 17 percent of married disabled beneficiaries and 55 percent of unmarried reported income below poverty levels; (4) SSDI benefits were the most important source of income for most disabled beneficiaries; and (5) as of January 1986, 63 percent of the disabled beneficiaries in the 1982 survey were still receiving disability benefits, 17 percent converted to social security retirement, 7 percent were terminated or suspended, and 13 percent had died.

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