Disability Beneficiary Work Activity, 2002–2014: Evidence from the Social Security Administration’s Disability Analysis File (DAF)

DRC Working Paper Number: 2018-02
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research
Apr 30, 2018
Authors
Michael Levere, Jody Schimmel Hyde, Su Liu, and Francoise Becker

Key Findings:

  • The Great Recession substantially reduced the likelihood that SSDI and SSI beneficiaries experienced STW and accrued BFW, and the effects were felt well beyond the official end of the recession in 2009. We can see these effects by comparing annual cross-sectional STW and BFW statistics, and by considering the experiences of cohorts of beneficiaries following their initial eligibility for benefits. The effects of the recession were more pronounced for SSI beneficiaries than for SSDI beneficiaries, which reflects differences in their previous connections to the labor force, as well as differences between the two programs in how earnings affect benefits and eligibility.  
  • With the exception of the effects of the recession, the likelihood of achieving STW and accruing BFW has been relatively steady over time. Conditional on achieving STW, the average number of months in STW during the year did not vary over time (even during the recession), and similarly, for beneficiaries with any BFW, the average value was very similar across years. 

In this paper, we document the extent to which SSDI and SSI beneficiaries had their monthly cash benefits suspended or terminated as a result of work activity in 2002–2014 using measures included in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Analysis File (DAF). We use two measures from the DAF; STW, which is a monthly indicator of nonpayment status due to suspension or termination for work, and BFW, which provides a monthly estimate of the dollar value of cash benefits forgone in the month as a result of earnings from work. We find that with the exception of the effects of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the likelihood of achieving STW and accruing BFW has been relatively steady over time. Conditional on achieving STW, the average number of months in STW during the year did not vary over time (even during the recession), and similarly, for beneficiaries with any BFW, the average value was very similar across years. Yet, the Great Recession substantially reduced the likelihood that SSDI and SSI beneficiaries experienced STW and accrued BFW, and the effects were felt well beyond the official end of the recession in 2009.

In addition to this manuscript, we developed a set of downloadable spreadsheets containing annual STW and BFW statistics for many beneficiary subgroups. The links below will provide these annual statistics in Excel files, with permutations of STW and BFW measures and beneficiary groups. More information about the content of these Excel files is included in the manuscript available above. Please also consult the "Read me" page in each file before using these files.

Annual Statistics by Year:

2002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014