Vocational Rehabilitation: Earnings Increased for Many SSA Beneficiaries after Completing VR Services, but Few Earned Enough to Leave SSA's Disability Rolls

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "In 2005, about 10 million working-age people with disabilities were beneficiaries of federal income support programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA)--namely the Disability Insurance (DI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Both of these programs have grown dramatically over the past decade and the federal government's cost of providing these benefits was almost $101 billion in 2005. This growing cost and the need to redefine the relationship between impairments and the ability to work prompted us in 2003 to put federal disability ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. March 30, 2007.

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Description

A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "In 2005, about 10 million working-age people with disabilities were beneficiaries of federal income support programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA)--namely the Disability Insurance (DI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Both of these programs have grown dramatically over the past decade and the federal government's cost of providing these benefits was almost $101 billion in 2005. This growing cost and the need to redefine the relationship between impairments and the ability to work prompted us in 2003 to put federal disability programs on GAO's high-risk list. As we have previously reported, the percentage of SSA beneficiaries who could return to work is unknown. Some beneficiaries are unlikely to work because of the severity of their disabilities. Those who do return to the workforce may face additional challenges to their ability to leave the disability rolls. These include a potential loss of health care insurance coverage, lack of access to technologies, and transportation difficulties. Nevertheless, we have reported in the past that some beneficiaries who do participate in the workforce have credited vocational rehabilitation services, in part, for their return. Administered by the Department of Education (Education) since 1973, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program provides funds to states to offer an array of employment services that range from treatment of impairments to job counseling and placement. In 2005, the 80 state VR agencies were provided $2.6 billion in federal funds. The program serves about 1.2 million people each year, and over a quarter of those who exit are SSA recipients. On average, participants stay in the VR program for approximately 2 years, and Education tracks employment and earnings outcomes for 3 months after they exit the program. GAO examined long-term outcomes for SSA beneficiaries who participate in VR, on (1) the extent to which SSA disability beneficiaries who exit VR programs engage in work at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level5 and ultimately reduce or replace their benefits with earned income, (2) whether there are certain disability beneficiary characteristics associated with positive employment outcomes, and (3) whether some VR agencies have particular policies and approaches that can be associated with positive employment outcomes. GAO's Congressional brief of February 2, 2007 presented results on the first objective--namely, the number of SSA beneficiaries who gained employment or increased their earnings following VR, the extent to which their earnings were at the SGA level, whether they ultimately reduced or replaced their benefits with earned income, and whether they eventually left the rolls. This report formally conveys the information provided during that briefing, adjusted to reflect information provided by SSA in its review of our draft report."

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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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  • March 30, 2007

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Vocational Rehabilitation: Earnings Increased for Many SSA Beneficiaries after Completing VR Services, but Few Earned Enough to Leave SSA's Disability Rolls, report, March 30, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301917/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.