Can SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with mental illness benefit from evidence-based supported employment?

Authors: Becker, D. R., Smith, J., Tanzman, B., Drake, R. E., & Tremblay, T.
Year Published 2007
Publication Psychiatric Services
Volume 58
Number 11
Pages 1412-1420
Publisher American Psychiatric Association

Individuals with psychiatric disabilities are the fastest-growing subgroup of Social Security Administration disability beneficiaries and have negligible rates of return to competitive employment. Policy makers at the Social Security Administration (SSA) have become increasingly concerned by the rising number of beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities of working age (18-64 year-olds) in its two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).


The purpose of this study was to examine whether SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with mental illness respond favorably to evidence-based supported employment to the same extent as individuals who do not have SSA benefits.


Data was collected from four randomized controlled trials of evidence based supported employment programs located in New Hampshire, Washington DC, Connecticut and Illinois.


The investigators compared 546 Social Security Administration disability beneficiaries who experience severe mental illness with 131 non-beneficiaries who also experience severe mental illness.

Data Collection

Data from four independent randomized controlled trials were examined and merged to determine the magnitude of effects of individual placement and support on three employment outcomes (obtaining a job, job tenure, and amount of work).


The study compared employment outcomes for social security beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries.


Beneficiaries receiving supported employment had better employment outcomes than those receiving other vocational services. Similar results were found for non-beneficiaries. Overall, non-beneficiaries had better employment outcomes than beneficiaries.


Evidence-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.

Disabilities Orthopedic impairments
Populations Male & Female
Outcomes Employment acquisition
Research Design Observational
Peer Reviewed Yes