Announces Historic 5-year Affective
Disorder Demonstration Project at the
Social Security Administration
to Help People with Mental Illness
Return to Work in Honor of
the White House Conference
on Mental Health
Vice President Al Gore announced
today that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will offer up
to 1,000 Social Security Disability beneficiaries with affective
disorders the opportunity to participate in a 5-year demonstration
project to test improved treatments that could result in better
functioning and a return to the workforce.
Research suggests that as many
as 60 percent of affective disorder cases can be controlled with
appropriate treatment, yet a review of approximately 200 Social
Security claims showed that some beneficiaries with affective disorders
received no treatment and many beneficiaries were not treated by
mental health professionals. These results support anecdotal information
that many beneficiaries with affective disorders receive less effective
care than is available today because of restrictions in health insurance
coverage, treating physicians without a psychiatric specialty and
a lack of access to improved treatment methods. By providing the
best possible treatment to disability beneficiaries with affective
disorders, SSA believes that many of these individuals will be able
to overcome the disabling effects of their illnesses and successfully
transition back to work, ultimately enabling them to leave the disability
Under the study, SSA will allow
participants' treating sources the opportunity to pick from a list
of modern treatment regimens including the option to use modern
medication or psychosocial therapy, or both. SSA will pay the costs
of drugs and therapy for participants who continue to follow the
prescribed regimen during the demonstration. Throughout the process,
SSA will solicit input and advice of specialists in the medical
community and advocates in the disability community.
Of the 4.7 million Social Security
Disability Insurance (SSDI) disabled beneficiaries who received
disability payments from SSA, approximately one of every nine (about
500,000) has a primary diagnosis of affective disorder. Affective
disorders are characterized by a disturbance in mood (depression,
mania or both). Many affective disorders are episodic in nature,
with onset typically before age 35. Major diagnoses under affective
disorders include Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
Affective Disorders are the
fastest growing category of disabilities, consistent with the increasing
recognition by the medical profession of affective disorders in
society. Over a lifetime, each SSDI beneficiary will receive an
average of $90,000 in benefits.
The Administration has been
actively involved in efforts to encourage citizens with disabilities
to enter the workforce and is supporting legislation sponsored by
Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth and Moynihan that would eliminate
work disincentives and expand the availability of health care services.
In addition, the legislation includes a "ticket" that would enable
Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income
beneficiaries to obtain employment, rehabilitation, and/or support
services that are tailored to their needs from a choice of either
a public or private provider of services.
SSA will offer the return-to-work
(RTW) resources available to all participants in the study. Outcomes
for participants will be recorded at regular intervals for several
years afterward. Success will be measured in terms of improvements
in functioning and the extent to which study participants demonstrate
the ability to sustain work, as well as in terms of increases in
earnings and decreases in SSDI program costs.
The study will be conducted
under two contracts. The first contract will be for the design of
the study and is being currently announced for solicitation of proposals.
A contract conducting the study will immediately follow the completion
of the study design.
The study will be designed primarily
as a return-to-work demonstration. SSA will be testing access to
established treatment regimens as facilitators of work efforts for
beneficiaries with affective disorders. The demonstration is intended
to show that if SSA provides access to the right treatment for disabled
beneficiaries, many will be able to return to work.
"It is my belief that this innovative
pilot study will provide a gateway for individuals with affective
disorders to return to work and lead more productive lives," said
Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner of Social Security. "Everyone reaps
benefits when each individual has an opportunity to make a unique
contribution to society."