Technical Expert Panels (TEPs)


The Technical Expert Panels’ (TEP) identified issues and provided recommendations concerning proposed demonstration projects to help SSA determine the best courses of action to test changes to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. TEPs helped SSA develop research questions and provided guidance on methods that SSA will consider for the design and evaluation of these demonstration projects.


All the demonstration TEPs ended in 2019.

Key Activities and Design

SSA held three TEPs to obtain advice on the following proposed demonstrations:

Exits from SSDI Demonstration: This random assignment demonstration would facilitate referral to employment and other services for beneficiaries whose entitlement would soon terminate due to medical improvement. SSA would refer these beneficiaries to a public or private service provider to facilitate needed services with the goal of reducing return to payment status and increasing self-sufficiency.

Claimant Representative Demonstration: This demonstration would test a change in the payment for claimant representatives designed to encourage greater representation earlier in the adjudication process. The goal of increased representation at earlier levels of the adjudication process would be to shift the timing of some awards from the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing level to the initial or reconsideration levels.

Simplification Demonstration: This demonstration would identify changes to current SSDI work rules and policies that SSA might test to increase beneficiaries’ employment and earnings and decrease reliance on the SSDI program. The Simplification Demonstration will consider the options for rules changes post-entitlement of SSDI beneficiaries. The goal is to establish a system with the right incentives and the fewest barriers so that those who are able can return to work. SSA asked the TEP to focus on policies that SSA could test and implement nationally.


TEPs provided valuable input on questions such as:

  • How much time is necessary for the proposed demonstration to produce meaningful results?
  • What are the most important variations of the proposed intervention for policy makers?
  • How should treatment and control (or comparison) groups be assigned? What alternatives to a simple random assignment study are feasible?
  • How many individuals must be included in the study?
  • What are meaningful effect sizes?
  • What agencies or organizations should SSA consider partnering with for the study (if any)?
  • Should the demonstration be national, or would more limited geographic representation be sufficient?
  • What aspects of the demonstration can SSA conduct internally?
The Exits from SSDI TEP helped us to determine types of interventions, participants criteria, location of the participants, the number of participants needed, the most important information to be collected and the possible time timeframe. Additionally, the Claimant Representative TEP suggested we improved the disability benefit application process to make sure that cases are developed fully and completely earlier in the process. The Simplification Demonstration TEP offered insight on several important outcomes to measure in a future SSA demonstration such as employment, earnings, hours of work, job tenure and life satisfaction compared to before return to work. The TEP members suggested that SSA should test allowing beneficiaries to earn any amount of money while receiving their full SSDI benefits and identified several important barriers to increasing employment among SSDI beneficiaries.

SSA designed the Beyond Benefits Study utilizing the feedback from the Exits Demonstration TEP. The purpose of the study is to collect information about the service, medical and employments needs of working-age adults exiting SSDI programs because of medical improvement.


Exits from Disability Demonstration
Claimant Representative Demonstration
Post-Entitlement Earnings Simplification Demonstration

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