Brief A New Approach to Examining Disability
How the WD-FAB Could Improve SSA’s Processes and Help People with Disabilities Stay Employed
Diane Brandt, Jack Smalligan
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The National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with Boston University, developed a new tool for assessing individual functional ability with funding from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The tool, called the Work Disability–Functional Assessment Battery (WD-FAB), uses item response theory and computer adaptive testing to quickly interview people and systematically map physical and mental health functioning.

In this paper, we provide background on the WD-FAB and explore two ways it could improve the delivery of services to people with disabilities. First, the instrument could provide SSA with a more complete understanding of an applicant’s self-reported functional abilities and limitations. SSA could use those insights to improve the disability determination process for those applying for disability benefits. Second, the instrument could help federal, state, and local programs identify interventions for people who need return-to-work services.

The WD-FAB offers an opportunity to leverage advances in approaches to integrate functional information into the assessment of work disability using comprehensive, efficient technologies to capture self-reported functioning.

Research Areas Education Health and health care Aging and retirement Social safety net Workforce
Tags Social Security Workforce development Older workers Disability and long-term care Disabilities and employment Workers in low-wage jobs Work supports Disability Insurance Retirement policy Beyond high school: education and training Social determinants of health Disability equity policy
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center