Posts Tagged "SSDI"

A New Link Between Opioids and Disability

Picture a worker who has an injury so traumatic that he or she is rushed to the emergency room. A doctor prescribes an opioid to ease the pain.

A new working paper adds to the growing evidence that taking opioids, even when necessary, can have serious long-term consequences for workers’ career paths.

Michael Dworsky at RAND found that workers who received prescription opioids after visiting Colorado emergency rooms were far more likely to enroll in Medicare before turning 65 than people who didn’t get a prescription to treat an injury. Starting Medicare before 65 almost always indicates that someone has left the labor force and is receiving benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance, the primary social program for workers with disabilities.

Dworsky reached similar findings in three different analyses, which used Medicare enrollment within four years of an emergency room visit as a rough proxy for whether workers are receiving the federal disability benefits.

People who had taken opioids prior to being injured were the most likely to leave the labor force. After an emergency room visit resulted in a new opioid prescription, more than 2 percent of the previous users wound up on Medicare and disability – a rate that is four times higher than for traumatic-injury patients who had never previously taken opioids.

Dworsky also examined the morphine-equivalent doses that were dispensed to patients over time. The probability of receiving prescription opioids spiked immediately after workers’ injuries and then stabilized at a higher level than before the injuries. …Learn More

How Older Workers Adapt to New Disability

One in four workers who are still healthy in their mid-50s will experience a disability in the next few years that will make working more difficult.

Sometimes the disability stems from a sudden medical problem such as a heart attack, but many disabilities are just the accumulated wear and tear on aging bodies or chronic medical conditions that get worse.

Whatever the cause, a new study in the journal Research on Aging finds that late-life disabilities often force older workers into early retirement. Nearly three-fourths of the workers who experienced a new disability in their late 50s or early 60s had left the labor force before their full retirement age. Among the people who didn’t have a disability, only a third had stopped working.

The researchers also looked more closely at those with disabilities who did continue to work. Were they able to transition into a new job or occupation that might accommodate their condition? Do they earn less?

The answer to both questions seems to be yes.

Linking a long-running survey of older Americans with occupational data, the researchers checked in on the workers who did not have a disability at age 55 to see how they were faring at 59, 63 and 67. Occupational changes were fairly common when they remained in the labor force after developing a disability.

This might mean moving from a physically demanding construction job to Uber driver or from school teacher to editor of educational materials. Finding a job in a different occupation potentially creates a bridge that accommodates the older workers’ desire to keep working and delay retirement.

At age 59, for example, two-thirds of the people with disabilities who stayed in the labor force had switched occupations, compared with less than a third of the other workers. Once a disability sets in, “staying in the same occupation is difficult,” the researchers concluded.

The people who develop a disability sometime after their mid-50s also earn perhaps 15 percent less than those who are disability-free at 67. …Learn More

Encouraging People with Disabilities to Work

Having a physical or mental disability can make it impossible to work. But for people with disabilities who are able, it’s crucial they get the support they need so they can work and feel productive, self-sufficient, and part of a larger community.

So who are they? A new study identifies a small but promising group who are initially awarded monthly cash assistance from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and eventually qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

The researchers call them SSI-first beneficiaries because the SSI payments come first and then the workers migrate over to SSDI and sometimes quit their jobs.

If identified early, these individuals could be encouraged to remain in the labor force after their SSDI benefits start or even leave the federal benefit rolls.

The researchers found that people who were receiving SSI and eventually entered SSDI had more success working – and more promise for staying in the labor force – when compared with one other group: SSI awardees who did not enter SSDI.

For example, three out of four SSI-first recipients, who later were awarded SSDI, had worked in the five years after their SSI payments started. This compares with just one in five people receiving SSI who did not enter SSDI later.

In another indication of their employment potential, a third of SSI-first recipients had their SSDI benefits suspended because their earnings were relatively high. It was rare for people receiving only SSI to jeopardize their benefits this way.

To be eligible for both the SSI and SSDI programs, the federal government caps the earnings of workers with disabilities at $1,350 per month. …Learn More

Early Life Traumas Lead to Early Retirement

little girl choosing and taking book from shelf to readMental illness, obesity, smoking, chronic disease – researchers have been able to connect the dots between an array of stresses early in life and how people will fare as they age.

New research zeroes in on the adversities experienced by children and young adults that ultimately contribute to a premature retirement due to a disability.

The basic finding is not terribly surprising – that life’s financial and social circumstances can lead to disabling conditions that will either nudge, or force, older workers to leave the labor force early.

More remarkable is the exhaustive list of past experiences that can increase that risk.

For example, childhood financial adversity in this study took many forms – an unemployed father, family relocations for financial reasons, or even having few books in the house. People whose families struggled financially when they were children were the most likely to retire prematurely.

The study was based on surveys asking older working people born during the Baby Boom, the Depression, and World War II about stressful or traumatic events experienced in childhood and middle age. The researchers followed them through several years of surveys to determine who retired before turning 62. The early retirees were asked whether a medical condition or chronic disability was either an important reason for leaving the labor force or prevented them from continuing to work altogether.

Added to the childhood traumas are a range of social adversities faced by young and middle-aged adults – the death of a spouse, natural disasters, combat duty, divorce, violence, or having a child addicted to drugs – that also increased the likelihood of early retirements. …Learn More

Woman in a dark place

Opioids Make it Harder, Not Easier to Work

The twin goals of prescribing opioids to workers with a bad back or arthritis are to alleviate their pain and keep them employed.

But the use and abuse of opioids can cause poor memory, extreme drowsiness, and an inability to engage in normal social interactions – all of which limit workers’ ability to function. Opioids also have serious physical effects outside of the dependence itself.

The resulting detachment from the labor market, revealed in a new research study, calls into question any benefits the medications have.

Between 2012 and 2018, average employment declined by nearly 2 percent for every 10 additional opioid prescriptions per 100 adults in a county-sized area, the researchers found. Wages also dropped by 6 percent, indicating that the opioid users who do remain employed are less productive.

The painkillers had more permanent consequences, too, when workers, unable to cope, left the labor market for good. The rate of applications for federal disability benefits increased sharply in the areas with higher prescribing rates, according to the study funded by the U. S. Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program. …Learn More

Disability Applicants’ Opioid Use in Decline

A big drop in opioid use among people applying for federal disability benefits seems like encouraging news, even if they do still use the drugs at considerably higher rates than the general population.

A Big Drop in Use in Just 5 YearsNew research finds that opioid use fell from one in three disability applicants in 2013 to one in four 2018 applicants. And the improvements were across the board: opioid use declined regardless of age, education level, sex, or region, according to the study funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration, which administers the program.

The researchers wanted to get as accurate a picture as possible of use and abuse in the disability community, a source of one in four hospitalizations for opioid overdoses. To tease out opioid use in Social Security’s records, they combed through applicants’ own free text descriptions of their medications for every conceivable name they might’ve used, including generic and brand names. The researchers even included misspellings – for example, oxycotin for oxycontin – and excluded cough suppressants with an opioid as an ingredient. …Learn More

Downturns Attract Healthier DI Applicants

A theory – untested until now – about why more people apply for federal disability during recessions is that the depression, stress, or unhealthy behaviors caused by unemployment worsen their health and spur them to apply.

This explanation is largely ruled out in a new study out of Cornell University and the University of Illinois.

For each percentage point increase in local unemployment rates, more people with disabilities join the roles – about 45,000 more across the country. This finding, covering a period of 25 years, confirms what the existing research says about the connection between the economy and disability. Disability benefits, which average just under $1,300 per month, look more appealing when employment opportunities are scarcer.

When the researchers investigated why caseloads increased, they found evidence that seemed to contradict the hypothesis that people who apply during downturns are not as healthy.  Once they get on the disability rolls and become eligible for Medicare, annual Medicare spending on these new beneficiaries was slightly less than spending on the people who were already in the program.

Still, the researchers weren’t convinced the recession applicants tend to be healthier. Needing more evidence, they looked at Medicare spending for the disability beneficiaries who had applied to the program at 50. At that age, Social Security loosens the eligibility rules, making it easier to qualify.

The logic behind this part of the analysis is that the 50-year-old applies not because his medical condition or disability suddenly deteriorates after his birthday but in direct response to unfavorable economic conditions. Individuals pulled into the disability insurance program by the laxer rules are actually healthier: Medicare spends about $1,000 less per year on them compared to those who applied at 49.

The 50-year-old applicants are also more sensitive to a sluggish job market: for every percentage point rise in unemployment, the increase in new beneficiaries who’d applied at 50 was about five times more than it was for the 49-year-olds. …Learn More