What Have we Learned about SSA and VR Program Interactions?

DRC Brief Number: 2018-05
Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research
Dec 31, 2018
Authors
David R. Mann

Key Findings:

  • Payments from SSA to VR agencies for SSI recipients and DI beneficiaries who receive VR services and then return to substantive work are relatively infrequent, occurring for only 3.5 percent of VR applicants.
  • Among the SSI and DI beneficiaries for whom VR received any payment, SSA payments equaled 9.3 percent of all benefits forgone for work. Payments are low, in part, because VR agencies do not submit all potential payment requests.
  • VR service receipt is associated with positive adult employment outcomes among former child SSI recipients.
  • Transition-age you with mental health conditions who received VR services were less likely to receive SSI payments or DI benefits in early adulthood compared to VR customers without mental health conditions.
Some Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries seek to enter or re-enter the labor force, despite having a medical condition determined to prohibit work. For these individuals, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program, which assists people with disabilities who want to work, is a helpful resource. In addition, by providing services that help people with disabilities achieve or maintain employment, VR may affect applications for SSI payments or DI benefits, delaying or diverting some while possibly hastening others. Exploring the relationship between SSI, DI, and VR helps us to better understand VR’s potential role in stemming the growth in the SSI and DI caseload. This issue brief highlights lessons from studies about the relationship between SSI, DI, and VR that were funded by SSA’s Disability Resource Consortium (DRC). The studies yielded two overarching findings: (1) SSA payments to state VR agencies for assisting SSI recipients and DI beneficiaries to successfully achieve substantive work outcomes are relatively infrequent but could increase, and (2) VR service receipt is correlated with positive employment outcomes for certain transition-age youth, including former child SSI recipients and youth with mental health conditions (MHC). Both findings have implications for SSA and VR policy.