Research on Compassionate Allowances (CAL) is of particular interest and a
research priority for this program (http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/).
For example, projects may:
Assess the severity thresholds in medical conditions that meet the
criteria for CAL and the scientific, medical, or research justification
for their inclusion as part of the compassionate allowance process.
Identify new CAL conditions and subcategories of impairments to
emphasize those cases with the greatest severity.
Evaluate new imaging and diagnostic tools used to measure severity of
Analyze treatment guidelines that would suggest certain drugs or
treatments given as a last resort may also be a measure of severity.
Explore new advances in technology and their application to disability
Another research priority for this program is the analysis
and development of a conceptual crosswalk that compares:
International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)
concepts and terminology to the occupational requirements concepts and
terminology used in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT),
formerly supported by the US Department of Labor
function-by-function descriptions of the individual’s work to residual
functional capacity ratings, which are based on DOT concepts, and to
possible functional equivalence to SSA Listings of Impairments. The
scope could be either a global comparison for mental and physical
impairments, or an analysis of specific physical or mental impairments
topic may be of particular interest to graduate students in occupational
therapy, physical therapy, rehabilitative therapy and vocational
rehabilitation counseling fields as basic conceptual research
Other Suggested Topics
Students are encouraged to develop alternative topics and formulate
appropriate study designs. Some examples might include:
Medical and Rehabilitative Sciences
What are the most common functional effects of traumatic brain injury
(TBI) or various types of strokes and what measurements of severity
might be suitable for evaluating the functional capacity of an
individual who has suffered from a TBI/stroke? How might the specific
physical and cognitive functional deficit(s) resulting from a TBI/stroke
affect ability to meet critical work requirements?
Do current medical listings found in Disability Evaluation under
Social Security (also known as the “Blue Book,”
consistent consideration regarding the use of assistive technology for
disability determination purposes?
Predictive Modeling, Economics, Efficiencies
Predictive modeling, like the quick disability determination (QDD)
process used by SSA, is another research priority for this program.
Focusing on information collection instruments, what are the
opportunities for improving an existing disability claim intake process?
What are the key factors in the growth of mental impairments on the
Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income
What is the best way to collect information during the application
process to maximize the proper identification of cases that qualify for
compassionate allowance processing?
Sociology, Special Populations, Vocational Factors
What is the relationship between homelessness and disability? What
factors associated with homelessness are predictive of disability and
are within the existing statutory authority to consider? Can chronic
homelessness be used as a proxy for meeting criteria for the mental and
other medical listings (e.g. the “B” criteria for Traumatic Brain
Does recent research offer guidance on a disability determination
process for special populations, such as children and wounded warriors?
- Research has been published in the last decade
regarding the effects of such factors as age, education, and skills on
individuals ability to work.
What else can be learned from published
literature regarding the effects of age and education, in
particular, on an individual’s vocational profile?
To what extent can the effects found among
the populations associated with these published studies be
generalized to a disability claimant population (such as SSA’s
How does age affect the ability to work
(or the residual functional capacity) of individuals with specified
impairments, such as musculoskeletal impairments or affective