Characteristics of Adults With Psychiatric Disabilities Participating in the Federal Disability Programs

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Abstract

Objective: We use nationally representative data on working-age recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to profile beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities and compare them with beneficiaries eligible for SSDI and SSI on the basis of other health conditions. Method: Using data from 4 National Beneficiary Survey rounds, we conducted descriptive analyses of the personal and health characteristics and employment experiences of beneficiaries with and without psychiatric disabilities. Our sample includes 16,190 SSDI and SSI beneficiaries, of whom 6,447 have psychiatric disabilities. We conducted statistical tests of significance (χ2 and t statistics) to assess the difference between beneficiaries with and without psychiatric disabilities. Results: Beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities differ in many ways from other beneficiaries. They are significantly more likely to be younger than 55 years of age, female, have children, be unmarried, live alone, and be in poverty. Although a greater share report a desire to work, they are also more likely than their counterparts with other disabilities to report various employment barriers, including being discouraged by previous work attempts, the perception that others do not think they can work, a lack of transportation, and not wanting to lose cash or health insurance benefits. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: The findings suggest that beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities face numerous significant employment obstacles that would need to be addressed for supported employment or similar approaches to be successful.

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