Social Security Disability:

Denied Applicants' Health and Financial Status Compared With Beneficiaries'

HRD-90-2: Published: Nov 6, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the employment, health, and financial status of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients, denied applicants, and terminated beneficiaries.

GAO found that: (1) virtually all 1,081 individuals receiving SSDI benefits in 1984 who responded to a 1987 survey reported that they were unemployed, while 58 percent of 1,109 denied applicants reported that they were unemployed; (2) 71 percent of denied applicants who were working reported health problems which limited their work capacity; (3) over 40 percent of the working denied applicants reported earning less in 1986 than they earned before applying for disability; (4) 80 percent of the nonworking denied group and 78 percent of SSDI beneficiaries reported having fair to poor health, while 13 percent of the working denied group reported poor health; (5) 40 percent of the nonworking denied group, 51 percent of beneficiaries, and 12 percent of the working denied group reported depending on others for at least one personal care activity; (6) 71 percent of the nonworking denied group, 76 percent of beneficiaries, and 41 percent of the working denied group had severe functional limitations; (7) both working and nonworking denied applicants reported back problems as their most limiting disability, while beneficiaries most frequently reported mental and heart problems; (8) both beneficiaries and denied applicants reported low financial status, with 61 percent of the nonworking denied group and 43 percent of beneficiaries reporting income below the poverty level; (9) as of 1987, the Social Security Administration had reinstated 63 percent of individuals it had formerly determined were ineligible for continued SSDI benefits; and (11) 58 percent of the remaining terminated beneficiaries had returned to work.

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