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S@W/R2W Research & State Demonstration Projects

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Millions of American workers leave the workforce each year after experiencing an injury or illness.1 Hundreds of thousands of these workers go on to receive State or Federal disability benefits.2 Keeping even some of these workers in the workforce would help them stay productive while also reducing their dependence on disability programs.

  • Four million nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses occur annually.3
  • Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion, or $1,685 per employee.4
  • Lost productivity from workplace injuries and illnesses costs companies $60 billion each year.5
  • Businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational illnesses and injuries.6
  • In 2013, off-the-job injuries resulted in about 240 million days of lost production time — a number that will grow to 525 million days of future lost production time.7

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 proposed budget supports early intervention demonstrations to test promising Stay at Work/Return at Work (SAW/RTW) strategies. ODEP and the Social Security Administration, in partnership with other federal agencies, are currently developing the model and structure for the grant program and related evaluation and hope to launch the grant competition shortly after Fiscal Year 2018 funding is available.



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 Social Security Administration, "Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2015." SSA Publication No. 13-11826. Washington, DC: Social Security Administration, October 2016.
3 U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2012, "Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper." Available online at https://www.osha.gov/dsg/InjuryIllnessPreventionProgramsWhitePaper.html.
4 Stewart, W.F., Ricci, J.A., Chee, E., and Morganstein, D. 2003. "Lost Productive Work Time Costs from Health Conditions in the United States: Results from the American Productivity Audit." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 45(12): 1234-1246.
5 U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Office of Safety and Health Administration. Available online at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/safety-health-addvalue.html.
6 Ibid.
7 National Safety Council. 2015, "National Safety Council Injury Facts 2015 Edition." Available online at http://www.nsc.org/Membership%20Site%20Document%20Library/2015%20Injury%20Facts/NSC_InjuryFacts2015Ed.pdf.