Helping People Denied Disability Benefits for a Mental Health Impairment: The Supported Employment Demonstration

Psychiatr Serv. 2021 May 11;appips202000671. doi: 10.1176/ Online ahead of print.


Social Security Administration demonstration projects that are intended to help people receiving disability benefits have increased employment but not the number of exits from disability programs. The Supported Employment Demonstration (SED) is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of services for individuals with mental health problems before they enter disability programs. The SED aims to provide health, employment, and other support services that help them become self-sufficient and avoid entering disability programs. The target population is people who have been denied Social Security disability benefits for a presumed psychiatric impairment. Thirty community-based programs across the United States serve as treatment sites; inclusion in the SED was based on the existence of high-fidelity employment programs that use the individual placement and support model, the ability to implement team-based care, and the willingness to participate in a three-armed RCT. In the SED trial, one-third of 2,960 participants receive services as usual, one-third receive services from a multidisciplinary team that includes integrated supported employment, and one-third receive services from a similar team that also includes a nurse care coordinator for medication management support and medical care. The goals of the study are to help people find employment, attain better health, and delay or avoid disability program entry. This article introduces the SED.

Keywords: Disability; Disability denial; IPS supported employment; Psychosocial rehabilitation; Social Security disability benefits; Supported Employment Demonstration.