Skip to page content
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Bookmark and Share
ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy - Driving Change Creating Opportunity

S@W/R2W Research & RETAIN Demonstration Projects

Home | News & Events | Research & Publications | About RETAIN | FAQs | Grant Recipients | Contact Us

Each year, millions of American workers leave the workforce after experiencing an injury or illness.[1] The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that four million nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses occur annually, and the National Safety Council estimates that there were over 14 million nonfatal, off-the-job injuries and illnesses in 2014 alone.[2] Indeed, some experts estimate that non-occupational injuries and illnesses are roughly eight times as common as occupational ones.[3] Hundreds of thousands of these workers go on to receive state or federal disability benefits.[4] The impacts on individuals, employers, and all levels of government can be significant and long-lasting.

Many injured workers could remain in their jobs or the workforce if they received timely, effective help. Early return to work (RTW) programs succeed by returning injured workers to productivity as soon as medically possible during their recovery process. While disability cash and health benefits are an essential protection for workers with incapacitating long-term and permanent disabilities, they should not be the default path for those with disabilities if viable options for full and partial RTW exist. By keeping these workers engaged in gainful employment as tax-paying members of the community, fewer individuals will need to apply for or receive disability benefits.

Recognizing the importance of giving workers with disabilities economically sustainable alternatives to Federal disability benefits, the President's 2018 and 2019 proposed budgets support early intervention demonstrations. ODEP, the Employment and Training Administration, and the Social Security Administration developed the RETAIN initiative — Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network — to test the impact of early intervention projects on SAW/RTW outcomes. Visit the About RETAIN page for application information and the News & Events page for the latest information on all things RETAIN.

[1] Bardos, Maura, Hannah Burak, and Yonatan Ben-Shalom. "Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Return-to-Work Programs." Final report submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, March 2015.
[2] U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2012, "Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper." Available online at ( and National Safety Council. 2016, "Injury Facts, 2016 Edition." Itasca, IL: Author.
[3] Neuhauser, F. 2016. "The Myth of Workplace Injuries: or Why We Should Eliminate Workers' Compensation for 90% of Workers and Employers." IAIABC Perspectives. Accessed online at
[4] Social Security Administration, "Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2016." SSA Publication No. 13-11826. Washington, DC: Social Security Administration, October 2017.