Employing People with Disabilities |CROR| - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Research Projects

Medical, Functional and Occupational Factors in Disability Determination

Overview

Why is this study needed?

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) disability determination process faces major challenges which include (1) growth in disability claims, (2) inadequate tools to make disability determination decisions, (3) a public perception that disability decisions are not made uniformly and consistently and (4) unexplained variations in decision making that exposes the disability programs to charges of inequity.

How will this study help patients and rehabilitation stakeholders?

The goal of this research project is to help SSA improve decision-making at step 4 and 5 of its sequential decision process by evaluating the functional and occupational factors that affect disability determinations for mental impairment claims.

What are the project objectives?

  1. How well can state Disability Determination Service (DDS) disability award decisions be predicted using demographic, impairment, functional and occupational information?
  2. How well can we predict claimant decisions to appeal DDS denials using claim file information?
  3. To what extent can Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) disability award decisions be predicted using demographic, impairment, functional and occupational information?
  4. Does the mental Residual Functional Assessment (RFC) instrument yield a reliable and valid measure, or do subsets of items form better measures?
  5. How consistently are mental RFC judgments made by different raters for claimants with different mental impairments and at different stages in the disability decision process?
  6. Are the characteristics that distinguish awards at step 3 the same from the claimant characteristics that distinguish awards at steps 4 and 5?
  7. Are the characteristics that predict DDS decisions the same that predict ALJ decisions?
  8. How well does the Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA) instrument predict disability decisions?

How will the project objectives be achieved?

  1. Select 360 SSDI (Title II) claims in three categories of mental disorders: mood, psychotic and personality disorders.
  2. Create a coding scheme to characterize relevant aspects of medical, functional and occupational factors from existing claimant files.
  3. Evaluate the utility of a well-validated and reliable method of coding needs and strengths of adults with mental illness to learn how well needs and strengths predict disability decision and evaluate the extent to which ratings of medical and functional severity cohere to define reliable measures.
  4. Analyze claimant data so as to answer the specific research questions listed above.

What agency funded the project?

Social Security Administration, through the Disability Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

What is the duration of the project?

August 1, 2004 - July 31, 2005

Project Staff

Allen Heinemann, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator; Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
Elizabeth Durkin, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, Mental Health Services Research Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University;
Mary Grace Kovar, DrPH, Co-Investigator, National Opinion Research Center;
Larry Manheim, Ph.D., Co-Investigator, Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University;
Renanah Lehner, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

Related Project Research Web Sites

Disability Research Institute at University of Illinois-Champaign

Contact Information

For researchers and students
Allen Heinemann, Ph.D.
312-238-2802

For members of the media
312-238-6044