Connecting Contemporary Paradigms to the Social Security Administration's Disability Evaluation Process

Academic Article


  • From 1998 to 2008, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability insurance program (DI) applications rose from 1.2 million to 2.3 million and exceeded 3 million in 2009. Given these large and growing numbers, even small changes in processing disability applications may reduce processing time, lower program costs, and improve performance of SSA’s disability programs. A literature review examining current conceptual models of disability and SSA’s disability evaluation process for adults was conducted. A gap exists between contemporary models of disability and how SSA defines and operationalizes disability. This is complicated by substantial variation in the timing, quantity, and quality of applicant functional information and workplace demands. A focus on impairment marginalizes more comprehensive assessment of function necessary to assess capacity for work. Novel assessment methodologies, such as computer adaptive testing to measure human functioning may hold promise for SSA’s data collection methods and disability assessment.
  • Authors

  • Brandt, Diane E
  • Houtenville, Andrew
  • Huynh, Minh T
  • Chan, Leighton
  • Rasch, Elizabeth K
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 2011
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • Social Security Administration
  • disability evaluation
  • functional ability
  • impairment
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 116
  • End Page

  • 128
  • Volume

  • 22
  • Issue

  • 2