Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Honeycutt, T. C., Thompkins, A. V., Bardos, M. E., & Stern, S. N. (2017). Youth with disabilities at the crossroads: The intersection of vocational rehabilitation and disability benefits for youth with disabilities. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 60 (3), 131-144.
Title:  Youth with disabilities at the crossroads: The intersection of vocational rehabilitation and disability benefits for youth with disabilities
Authors:  Honeycutt, T. C., Thompkins, A. V., Bardos, M. E., & Stern, S. N.
Year:  2017
Journal/Publication:  Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin
Publisher:  Sage Publications
Full text: 
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Not reported

Structured abstract:

Background:  VR Services can effectively support young adults in transitioning from school to work or post-secondary education. These services can help students either receive the benefits they need and/or help students end benefits and find employment. Young adults who find themselves in this situation often face greater hurdles to employment because of their family economic situation, and they often work less and have lower earning than their peers. In some cases, the severity of their health conditions and disincentives to work because of the threat of loss of benefits or health coverage affect VR outcomes in this population. Ultimately, this study suggests that VR agency services for youth with disabilities might impact specific employment outcomes based on benefits received.
Purpose:  The study asked four research questions including, 1. how VR applicants with or without SSA benefits receive services and gain employment, 2. For youth with SSA benefits to what extent do they stop receiving benefits, 3. For youth without SSA benefits to what extent do they start receiving benefits, and 4. At the state level, what is the relationship of SSA outcome statistics with other youth and state characteristics?
Study sample:  This study used data from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)-911 Case Services Reports for the years 2004 through 2011 combined with SSA’s Disability Analysis File (DAF) to find application and cohort files for youth and young adults who applied for VR services between 2004 and 2006. Matching these data sets, the researchers identified youth who received VR services and SSA benefits during the study years. The population included transition-age youth 16 through 24 years at the time of VR application. In addition, the researchers analyzed outcomes of up to four years after the initial VR application. Finally, the study sample allowed for observation of youth through the completion of VR services.
Data collection and analysis:  Using the research data available, researchers used state level data to examine the intersection of VR agencies and SSA disability programs. From there, using the DAF information for youth between ages 16 and 24, the information was obtained for the years 2004, 2005, and 2006. Then comparisons were made between SSA and non-SSA VR applicants. Using four different ratios, Applicant to youth, service to applicant, employment to service, and employment to youth, researchers separated SSA and non-SSA youth receiving services. Ultimately, researchers used a descriptive approach to statistical analysis as a means of reconciling data from a variety of agencies and to see the range of statistics across agencies in terms of their relationships with each other.
Findings:  The researchers examined four specific areas of study. First, to what extent do VR Youth (SSA and Non-SSA) receive services and employment? About 30,000 youth (21% of all transition-age youth) receiving SSA benefits applied for VR services during the study period. In any given year, about 4% of SSA youth and 5% of non-SSA youth applied to VR agencies. In the United States, of the SSA youth who applied for VR services, 57% received services, roughly the same as for non-SSA youth. However, wide variations of these ratios appeared depending on the state. For example, in some states 70% of youth with SSA benefits received services while in other states less than 40% did. Across the nation, 44% of SSA youth who received VR services earned employment. For non-SSA benefit youth, about 59% received VR services and ended with employment. Simply put, 15% fewer youth with SSA benefits gained employment. Looking at employment to youth ratios, nationally, 1.1% of youth with SSA benefits were employed by case closure and 1.5% of non-SSA benefit youth. Benefits for youth on SSA ended (at least 1-month suspension of benefits) 14.2% of the time. In other cases, 10% youth without benefits often received benefits after starting VR services. Outcome statistics for both those youth with benefits and without show that employment to service ratios were similar. Further, youth with benefits more often ended those benefits once employment was earned after the VR services process. Finally, with non-beneficiary youth receiving benefits with 48 months of VR service, it appears that some agencies are not promoting youth toward employment. It is possible that agencies do not have the resources to support all applicants in their quest for employment.
Conclusions:  There were differences in the proportion of SSA and non-SSA gaining employment after exiting VR counseling. In general, those receiving SSA benefits are employed less frequently when they exit VR services. About 1 in 6 youth on SSA benefits had a least 1 month of suspension of benefits due to work. Further, about 1 in 10 VR applicants not on SSA benefits received those benefits with 48 months of initiating services. Variations of access to VR services varies widely acr4oss the United States ranging from 36% of applicants receiving services to 82%. Finally, VR counselors and administrators can best serve this population by examining how these youth are best served (both SSA and non-SSA youth), how each agency compares to agencies in other regions, and what long-term outcomes can be for this population.

Disabilities served:  Multiple disabilities
Populations served:  Transition-age youth (14 - 24)
Persons with multiple disabilities (e.g., deaf-blindness, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse)
SSI and SSDI recipients
Interventions:  Benefits counseling
Career counseling
Transition services
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition