Article

Living on the edge: Assessing the economic impacts of potential disability benefit reductions for Social Security disability beneficiaries

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Although Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are an important source of support to many people with disabilities, modifications to programs are under consideration given current and projected governmental fiscal constraints. OBJECTIVE: To provide data about levels of safety net cross-participation among working age SSDI and SSI program participants and to estimate how changes to disability benefit levels might influence the economic security of beneficiaries. METHODS: Data from the 2012 Current Population Survey is used to describe income and resources, program participation, and the share of family income and supplemental poverty measure resources received through public disability benefits. Hypothetical benefit reductions are estimated to assess economic impacts on the beneficiary population. RESULTS: Cross-participation is high among beneficiaries. Reductions in disability benefit income would have the largest impact on those beneficiaries who are participating in other safety net programs, but may also influence the movement of a portion of the remaining beneficiaries onto additional programs. CONCLUSION: Any modification of SSA disability programs will require careful consideration of how other public programs and services, including those provided within the field of vocational rehabilitation, can best support the economic security of persons with disabilities.

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Efforts by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) return to work have had limited success. The Early Intervention project represents the first initiative by SSA in which SSDI applicants will be provided temporary inducements and return-to-work services. Inducements will include a 1-year cash stipend and public health insurance for 3 years. Early Intervention is expected to be successful because it will focus on SSDI applicants who have not been detached from the labor force as long as persons already receiving benefits. The magnitude of this success, however, will depend on (a) the ability to screen for applicants who are likely to become SSDI beneficiaries and to go back to work and (b) the provision of adequate inducements and services. As the first return-to-work initiative targeted at SSDI applicants, the Early Intervention project is expected to provide valuable information to policymakers, researchers, and other interest groups.
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Policy makers relying on public-use Current Population Survey (CPS) data to measure the success of government policies in overcoming the gap in economic well-being between working-age men with and without disabilities will understate the mean income of both and overstate the relative economic well-being of the former. This understatement results from topcoding in the public-use CPS, which suppresses top incomes in the data set. Using cell means with the public-use CPS, the authors better correct for these topcoding problems than alternate methods and provide a relative economic well-being series (1980—2006) based on the mean incomes of working-age men with and without disabilities.
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The authors use longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation spanning 1996 to 1999 to estimate the prevalence of short- and long-term poverty among working-age people with and without disabilities. Depending on the disability measure used, annual poverty rates are 2 to 5 times higher among people with disabilities compared to those without disabilities. The relative long-term poverty rates among those with disabilities are much higher than the relative short-term poverty rates. People with disabilities represented 47% of those in poverty in 1997 according to an annual measure of poverty and 65% of those in poverty according to a long-term measure. The reasons that disability receives little attention in the poverty literature may be that most statistics are based on short-term measures, which partially mask the strong relationship between long-term poverty and long-term disability, and outdated perceptions of the relationship between disability and the ability to work.
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This research examines the relationship between work disability and food insecurity, and tests whether the positive association between disability and food insecurity is accounted for by two mechanisms: economic resources and/or competing consumption needs. A sample (N = 6997) is chosen from the 1999 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) with over 1200 households headed by people with disabilities. Findings support both mechanisms but depending on the levels of food insecurity and the types of family economic resources, their success at explaining the relationship of disability with food insecurity varies. In addition, we find that household assets are more effective than income in protecting people with disabilities against food insecurity. Implications for disability policy and food assistance programs are discussed.
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Conventional estimates of the number of uninsured Californians are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Unfortunately, CPS estimates of the number of people receiving Medi-Cal and welfare (AFDC/CalWORKs) are well below the numbers implied by official Medi-Cal records, suggesting that the conventional estimates of the number of uninsured Californians (and their characteristics) are seriously flawed. To improve understanding of these issues, the California HealthCare Foundation (through its then separate the Medi-Cal Policy Institute-MCPI) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (DHHS-ACF) funded RAND to match CPS data to individual-level administrative data for the Medi-Cal program. With the cooperation of the California Department of Health Services (CDHS), the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and the California Census Research Data Center (CCRDC), that match was performed. This document describes the findings of the analysis of those matched data.
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We introduce a new hybrid approach to joint estimation of Value at Risk (VaR) and Expected Shortfall (ES) for high quantiles of return distributions. We investigate the relative performance of VaR and ES models using daily returns for sixteen stock market indices (eight from developed and eight from emerging markets) prior to and during the 2008 financial crisis. In addition to widely used VaR and ES models, we also study the behavior of conditional and unconditional extreme value (EV) models to generate 99 percent confidence level estimates as well as developing a new loss function that relates tail losses to ES forecasts. Backtesting results show that only our proposed new hybrid and Extreme Value (EV)-based VaR models provide adequate protection in both developed and emerging markets, but that the hybrid approach does this at a significantly lower cost in capital reserves. In ES estimation the hybrid model yields the smallest error statistics surpassing even the EV models, especially in the developed markets.
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Objectives. We used data from the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine the extent to which working-age people with disabilities experience several types of material hardships. Methods. We constructed a series of logistic regression models to assess the importance of disability to material hardship experiences after controlling for income and other sociodemographic characteristics. Results. The findings indicate that disability is an important determinant of material hardship even after controlling for these factors. We also found that a large majority of the low-income respondents reporting a material hardship also reported being work-limited for some period of time. Conclusions. Our findings provide support for policies that account for disability-related expenditures and needs when determining eligibility for means-tested assistance programs, and highlight an important limitation of the official poverty measure—it overstates the relative economic well-being of people with disabilities.
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