Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Individually Designed


Sandra Butler

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Allan

Third Committee Member

Lenard Kaye


This study sought to investigate the disability income and employment support program experiences of people with psychiatric disabilities (PWPD), as well as their knowledge of the Social Security Administration (SSA) work incentives. Using qualitative research methods, seventeen people were interviewed in order to learn about their experiences and knowledge. Grounded theory methods guided the study with respect to data collection, analysis, and theory development. The central category, "The Irony of Security: Program Paradoxes in the SSA and VR," describes the emergent theory that the SSA's disability income support programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program—and by extension, program staff activities—contain inherent paradoxes which hinder PWPDs ability to return to or enter employment through these means. Furthermore, the practice of empowerment, as conceptualized in social work and recovery-based initiatives, is thereby compromised in such settings.