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May 15, 2000

Catherine Noe, Press Officer

For Immediate Release

410-965-8904 FAX 410-966-9973

Social Security Administration


News Release

Kenneth S. Apfel,
Commissioner of Social Security
Announces 5-year Cooperative Agreement to
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
To Fund Disability Research

Commissioner of Social Security, Kenneth S. Apfel, announced today that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been selected to participate in the Social Security Administration's Disability Research Institute. The five-year program will provide
$1.25 million in funding to the university in the first year. The mission of the Institute is to plan and conduct a broad range of research that will develop disability policy information. The information gleaned from the research will assist policymakers and the public in understanding disability issues as they relate to people with disabilities and programs under the Social Security Act.

"To be truly effective as an agency, we must know and understand the needs of the people we serve," said Commissioner Apfel. "The Disability Research Consortium is one more important step in meeting our commitment to providing the nation with strong leadership in the development of retirement and disability policy."

Changes in technology have fundamentally altered the American workplace since the Social Security disability program was created in 1956. In addition, advances in medicine have improved the odds that those who have life-threatening injuries or illnesses will some day be able to return to work. In order for the Social Security Administration to be prepared adequately to address the needs of people with disabilities, we must know more about the changing nature of the factors that contribute to their ability to remain in the work force. These factors include: how disease or injury may affect people's ability to work; and how advancements in medicine, technology, rehabilitation and supportive services enhance impaired individuals' ability to remain in or return to the workforce.

In addition to conducting research into disability areas, the Institute will disseminate information to the public and policymakers. The Institute will train and educate scholars to encourage young promising researchers to focus their efforts on disability issues and keep current practitioners abreast of the most recent research available.

The Institute has formed collaborative partnerships with other academic institutions and policy experts in the fields of economics, rehabilitation, public health and public policy. "The Social Security Administration is privileged to have a working partnership with some of the foremost disability policy experts in America," the Commissioner stated. "Through this Institute, the Social Security Administration will be in a position to provide national leadership on disability policy issues."

The cooperative agreement was awarded as a result of a full and open competitive process. Selection to participate in the Disability Research Institute was based on the recommendation of an expert independent review panel.

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