Posts Tagged "Social Security Disability"

Long Wait Times Deter Disability Applicants

Applying for federal disability benefits is a precarious situation for workers who were either forced, or have chosen, to quit their jobs due to an injury or chronic medical condition. There are no guarantees an application will be approved, and it can be hard to find a job after waiting months for a decision on whether they qualify for the benefits.

In new research documenting how long individuals wait for a decision on their initial disability applications to a Social Security Administration (SSA) field office, the average ranges from about seven to nine months.

The entire process can take twice as long if SSA denies the request for benefits and the applicant appeals within the agency or to an administrative law judge or federal court, the researchers found.

Wait times between the initial filing and resolving all appeals fluctuated quite a bit, at least during the study’s time period – 1996 through 2014 – but ended at a higher level than where they started. The waits in exurban and rural areas increased more than in urban areas.

Why does this matter? In addition to the burden on applicants of having to wait, long waits may be dissuading people from applying for disability. Counties that took longer to process applications and resolve all the appeals saw fewer applications the following year, the researchers found.

The impact of wait times on future applications provides preliminary “evidence of the importance of how SSA processing interacts with applicant behavior,” the researchers said.

The amount of time it takes to process an application can vary for all sorts of reasons. Certain severe medical conditions that are clearly disabling can speed things up. But submitting an incomplete application or applying to a particularly busy field office can lengthen the process. …Learn More

Pain in different areas of the body

Opioids: Cause or Consequence of Disability?

Opioid painkillers are a double-edged sword for older workers. The medications allow them to keep working through their joint or back pain. But a slide into addiction would interfere with doing their jobs.

A new RAND study of workers over age 50 has identified some of the negative consequences of relying on opioids. Rather than promoting work, the researchers found that opioids can cause or exacerbate disabling health conditions, hindering users’ ability to work and making them increasingly dependent on federal disability benefits over time.

Bad results from opioid overuse may seem predictable, given that doctors prescribe them to people who are in worse physical condition in the first place. But older workers’ health is already in decline, just by virtue of their age, so it’s not always clear how, or to what extent, opioids are affecting them.

The researchers sorted this out using a 2009 survey of older Americans in the long-running Health and Retirement Study (HRS). They matched people who didn’t take the medications with similar people who did – similar in everything from their functional limitations and sociodemographics to their labor market histories. The HRS continued to interview both groups over the next decade, allowing the researchers to compare the opioids’ effects over a longer period than prior studies.

For example, although the opioid users and non-users were in similar health in 2008, things changed dramatically – and quickly – the researchers found. As early as 2012, the opioid users were significantly more likely to have developed a disabling condition that limited their work capacity.

Opioid use or abuse is linked to myriad health problems. Overuse can exacerbate autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Users also have less healthy lifestyles and are prone to infectious diseases and mental illness, and opioids can impair lung function. …Learn More

child drawing with chalk

Medicaid for Children Pays Off Later

Medicaid health insurance, which covers a third of the nation’s children, has a payoff down the line: fewer adults on disability.

A well-known benefit of Medicaid is that low-income children covered under the insurance program turn into healthier adults. But a recent study found that these health improvements translate to another positive outcome for adults: fewer applications to Social Security’s Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which provides monthly cash benefits to people who are not healthy enough to work.

The study, conducted by researchers at Middlebury College and Vanderbilt University, used U.S. Census data to follow 63,000 individuals between ages 25 and 64 who were exposed to Medicaid for various lengths of time during childhood, depending on when they were born and when their state first implemented the program, which Congress passed in 1965.

First, the study confirmed the health benefits of Medicaid coverage for children: the adults in the study could more easily pass a few basic tests of health and physical stamina, such as lifting 10 pounds, standing for an hour, and walking up 10 stairs.

And better health did, indeed, reduce their applications for SSDI – and ultimately, the number of adults receiving disability benefits. In fact, the longer they would have been insured under Medicaid as children, the less likely they were to apply for disability, said the study, which was for NBER’s Retirement and Disability Research Center.

This is a clear example of how early intervention can reduce government spending down the road. …Learn More