UM23-08: Mixed-methods study on work-disabled adults who do not apply for Social Security disability benefits



Fewer than 50% of all American adults with work disabilities currently receive disability benefits, presenting a stark divergence between self-reported work-disability prevalence and disability awards. Yet, we know little about how work-disabled adults make their decisions about whether and when to apply for disability benefits. Moreover, little is known about the proportion of individuals potentially eligible for Social Security disability benefits who do not to apply. This mixed-methods study proposes to investigate how adults with self-reported work disabilities make decisions about claiming Social Security disability benefits; whether there are demographic, health, and socio-economic disparities in decision-making; and the overall proportion of potentially eligible adults who do claim benefits. We propose a comprehensive mixed-methods approach consisting of qualitative interviews and quantitative survey analysis that leverages data from the Understanding America Study (UAS) internet panel. This study aims to understand: (1) the prevalence and characteristics of nonapplicants amongst those with potential eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, and (2) decision-making around benefit application among self-reported work-disabled adults, with a particular focus on decisions not to apply for benefits. Such an understanding is essential to determine potential barriers and to develop strategies for intervention.

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