SSA and VA Disability Programs: Re-Examination of Disability Criteria Needed to Help Ensure Program Integrity

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The three largest disability programs collectively provided $89.7 billion in cash benefits to 10.2 million adults in 2001. However, the Disability Insurance (DI) program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and VA disability criteria reflect neither medical and technological advances nor the labor market changes that affect the skills needed to perform work and work settings. If these federal disability programs do not update scientific and labor market information, they risk overestimating the limiting nature of some disabilities while underestimating others. Twelve years ago, both the Social ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. August 9, 2002.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The three largest disability programs collectively provided $89.7 billion in cash benefits to 10.2 million adults in 2001. However, the Disability Insurance (DI) program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and VA disability criteria reflect neither medical and technological advances nor the labor market changes that affect the skills needed to perform work and work settings. If these federal disability programs do not update scientific and labor market information, they risk overestimating the limiting nature of some disabilities while underestimating others. Twelve years ago, both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began reviewing relevant medical advances and updating the criteria they use to evaluate claims. However, the time the agencies are taking to revise the medical criteria could undermine the very purpose of the update. Moreover, because of the limited role of treatment in the statutory and regulatory design of these programs, the updates have not fully captured the benefits afforded by advances in treatment. Also, the disability criteria used by DI, SSI, and VA programs have not incorporated labor market changes. These programs continue to use outdated information about the types and demands of jobs needed to determine the impact that impairments have on individuals' earning capacity. To incorporate scientific advances and labor market changes into the DI, SSI, and VA programs, steps can be taken within the existing program design, but some would require more fundamental change. Agencies need to continue their medical updates and vigorously expand their efforts to more closely examine labor market changes. At a more fundamental level, SSA and VA could consider changes to the disability criteria that would revisit the programs' basic orientation."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • August 9, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. SSA and VA Disability Programs: Re-Examination of Disability Criteria Needed to Help Ensure Program Integrity, report, August 9, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291749/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.