Can SSDI and SSI Beneficiaries With Mental Illness Benefit From Evidence-Based Supported Employment?

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ObjectiveIndividuals with psychiatric disabilities are the fastest-growing subgroup of Social Security Administration disability beneficiaries and have negligible rates of return to competitive employment. Nevertheless, a new approach to vocational rehabilitation, termed supported employment, has increased the optimism regarding employment for this population.MethodsAggregating data from four randomized controlled trials of evidence-based supported employment for persons with severe mental illness, the investigators compared 546 Social Security Administration disability beneficiaries with 131 nonbeneficiaries. Three employment measures were examined: job acquisition, weeks worked, and job tenure.ResultsBeneficiaries receiving supported employment had better employment outcomes than those receiving other vocational services. Similar results were found for nonbeneficiaries. Overall, nonbeneficiaries had better employment outcomes than beneficiaries. However, the effect sizes measuring the improved outcomes with supported employment were similar for beneficiaries (d=.52–1.10) and nonbeneficiaries (d=.78–.89).ConclusionsEvidence-based supported employment could enable many Social Security Administration beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities to attain competitive employment even though receipt of disability benefits operates as a barrier to employment.

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