The Conditions and Characteristics of Adult Supplemental Security Income Recipients with Autism

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
K. A. Anderson1, J. Hemmeter2, J. Rast3, A. Roux1, P. Shattuck3 and C. Sosnowy3, (1)A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, (2)Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, MD, (3)Drexel University A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Philadelphia, PA
Background:  Achieving economic security and independence is an everyday challenge for many adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who often have high rates of unemployment, earn low wages, and have high medical costs. Several studies of young adults with ASD have found low household income to be inversely related to several key outcomes including employment, independent living, and access to services. The federally-administered Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides income support to alleviate some of the adverse effects of poverty for people with disabilities. In 2014 alone, 8.3 million people received SSI benefits in the United States at an annual cost of $55 billion. Despite its pivotal importance, however, virtually nothing is known about the population of adult SSI recipients with autism.

Objectives:  We used a mix of Social Security Administration (SSA) program data and SSA’s National Beneficiary Survey to generate national point-estimates of the conditions and characteristics of adult SSI recipients with autism.

Methods:  We described the characteristics, employment status and benefits of adults with a primary or secondary impairment of ASD who received SSI in December, 2014. To report aggregate data of SSI receipt over a 14-year period, we examined the population of adults with ASD who received at least one SSI payment during any month in FFY 2001 through 2014.

Results:  Roughly 129,500 adults with ASD received SSI for at least one month in 2014, a 740% increase since 2001. Among them, nearly 37,050 people also had intellectual disability (ID) as a listed impairment. Roughly 85,330 adults with ASD and no reported ID received SSI in December 2014. Seventy-three percent of these recipients were between the ages of 18 and 25 years, and 81% were male. Around 79% were living in their own household or alone and 19% lived in someone else’s household receiving support and maintenance. Sixteen percent were employed in December 2014 with an average earned income of $194/month. The 2014 annual SSI payment amount varied: roughly 46% received the maximum annual SSI payment amount of $8,652, 39% received between $4,326 and $8,651, and 15% received less than $4,325.

Conclusions:  This study is an important first step in building an accurate description of the population of SSI recipients with autism. Further research is needed to improve our understanding of how adults with autism access and maintain SSI benefits, how service needs change across the life span, and how SSI benefits relate to later health and economic well-being.