Completed Projects

We have completed the following projects:

Disability Program Navigator (DPN) This was a joint project with the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration to place DPNs in DOL’s One-Stop Career Centers. The goals were to facilitate services for people with disabilities; improve access to programs and services; facilitate links with the employer community; develop strategies to meet employers’ recruitment and retention needs; increase employment and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities; and develop ongoing partnerships to take full advantage of all resources. In June 2003, DOL awarded cooperative agreement funding to 14 States to establish the DPN positions. In June 2004, DOL added 3 new States. In June 2006, DOL awarded cooperative agreement funding to an additional 13 States and the District of Columbia, and in April 2007 they announced cooperative agreement funding to 15 additional States and Puerto Rico. Eventually, there were about 500 DPNs throughout local workforce investment areas in 45 States plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. DPNs trained One-Stop Career Center staff members to help individuals with disabilities access and navigate the programs and supports needed to maintain and gain employment. DPNs facilitated the transition of young people with disabilities to help them obtain employment and reach economic self-sufficiency. They conducted outreach to organizations that serve people with disabilities. DPNs focused on expanding the capacity of the One-Stop Career Centers to serve customers with disabilities. Many DPNs developed cross agency “integrated resource teams” to customize resources based on an individual job seeker’s employment needs.

HOPE Congress provided $8 million annually in FY 2003, 2004, and 2005 directing the agency to use the appropriations to provide outreach and application assistance to “homeless and under-served populations.” We used this earmarked funding to establish the HOPE program. The HOPE initiative focused on assisting eligible, chronically homeless individuals in applying for SSI and SSDI benefits. We developed the project to test the effectiveness of using skilled medical and social service providers to identify and engage homeless individuals with disabling conditions and assist them in filing for benefits within current policy.

We awarded $6.6 million in cooperative agreement funding to 34 public and private organizations in April 2004 and an additional $1.2 million in cooperative agreement funding to 7 organizations in November 2004. All HOPE projects closed as of October 2009.

HOPE Final Evaluation Report

SEE: for our Service to the Homeless Activities and related policies.

The Pediatric Medical Unit (PMU) project offered additional pediatric medical expertise to assist State and Federal adjudicators in their development and review of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability cases.  In January 2006, we contracted with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the PMU project. The Project established PMUs in seven locations across the nation staffed by personnel representing a range of medical disciplines.  Sixteen Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices and several Hearing Offices (HO) were selected to participate in the PMU project through referral of selected cases to a designated PMU. Depending on the type of request received, the PMU would either provide a comprehensive case assessment based on the existing case record or conduct a face-to-face clinical assessment of the child.  DDSs and HOs could then incorporate these PMU assessments into the case record as an additional basis for case decision-making.

By late 2007, SSA determined that the PMU project was no longer viable due to a number of significant operational and evaluative limitations, and we decided to cease all project operations by April 2008.

State Partnership Initiative We designed the State Partnership Initiative (SPI) to help Project States develop programs of employment support services for their residents with disabilities that would (1) increase job opportunities; (2) decrease dependence on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits; and (3) foster the development of community resources. We provided five-year funding to twelve States (California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Wisconsin) to develop innovative projects to assist individuals with disabilities in their efforts to reenter the workforce. These awards helped States develop statewide programs of services and support for their residents with disabilities that increased job opportunities for them and decreased their dependence on benefits. California, Vermont, New York, and Wisconsin implemented SSI waivers to test alternative rules. The SPI projects began in 1998 and ended in 2004.

To view this report, please go to SPI Evaluations and Conclusions Reports.

TANF-SSI Disability Transition Project

Both welfare agencies and the Federal disability system seek to support people with disabilities and help them become more independent. However, the two systems often have differing missions and organization, definitions of disability, operational and financial issues, and work rules and incentives, making it challenging for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs to work together. TANF clients who apply for SSI may also encounter conflicting messages from TANF agencies regarding work requirements and benefit eligibility.

To help us understand the relationship between the TANF and SSI populations and programs better, we worked with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to launch the TANF-SSI Disability Transition Project (TSDTP) in October 2008.  The ACF, TANF agencies, and low-income individuals with disabilities and their families all benefit from effective and efficient services — moving toward employment when possible, making informed decisions about applying for SSI, receiving SSI as quickly as possible, and reducing administrative costs. 

Working with ACF, TANF agencies in California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York, select counties in these states, and the evaluation firm MDRC, we analyzed program data and pilot-testing several program interventions for TANF clients with disabilities. 

Analysis of merged TANF and SSI administrative data and field assessments in seven sites identified the following findings:

  • The overlap between the TANF and SSI populations is not large. Less than four percent of SSI applicants in FY 2007 received TANF at some point during the year prior to their SSI application.
  • There is little formal coordination between TANF and SSA.  It is often informal, locally based, and driven by personal relationships. Most TANF staff members know little about our disability determination process.
  • There is no evidence that TANF agencies are inappropriately pushing TANF recipients to SSI. Despite the lack of coordination between TANF and SSA, TANF recipients who apply for SSI are equally likely to be awarded benefits when compared to SSI applicants who are not TANF recipients.

Three States pilot-tested programmatic innovations, with the following key findings:

  • Providing an array of co-located services targeting TANF recipients with work impairments increased employment and earnings.
  • Improving the level coordination and communication between a TANF agency and SSA did not result in substantial improvements of SSI applications.

On December 31, 2013, the project concluded with the following final reports on data analysis, program coordination, pilot test observations, and options for a larger demonstration project.

Vocational Expert Study Panel On January 11, 2006, we awarded a contract to SSDC Corporation to convene an expert panel of vocational and occupational medical experts and disability policy and program experts to study the agency’s use of vocational and occupational medical expertise throughout the disability determination process, what changes can be made to improve case adjudication, and what qualifications we should require.  

We selected 21 vocational and occupational medical experts to serve on this panel including individuals with expertise in occupational medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy, nursing, case management, individuals with disabilities, and the disability community. In addition, we included disability determination services administrators and administrative law judges. After several discussions and reviews of distributed background materials, this expert panel met in July 2006 to prepare a report including recommendations for the Commissioner.

We received the Final Core Report from SSDC, "Use of Functional/Vocational Expertise", on March 27, 2007.