The Mortality Impacts of the SSDI Waiting Periods

Published: 2023
Project ID: UM23-10


Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries face two waiting periods before they receive benefits.  There is a five-month waiting period for cash benefits and a subsequent 24-month waiting period for Medicare benefits.  Because of these rules, some individuals with disabilities may endure episodes without adequate income or medical care.  In this project, we will study the short- and long-term consequences of these waiting periods on mortality.  We will first calculate mortality rates of beneficiaries during these waiting periods.  Next, we will exploit programmatic rules that induce some beneficiaries to experience longer waiting periods than others.  Individuals with a disability onset date on the first day of a calendar month receive their first benefits one month earlier than those with an onset date on the second day of the month.  This benefit delay mechanically postpones access to Medicare as well.  Our specific aims are to;

  1. quantify the mortality rates of beneficiaries during each waiting period;
  2. estimate the causal impact of longer SSDI waiting periods on mortality;
  3.  examine whether the mortality impacts are disproportionately large for certain demographics (race/ethnicity, age, sex), certain qualifying disability conditions, and by state health insurance rates due to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansions.