Demonstration Projects Update
Social Security conducts numerous research and demonstration projects to study ways to improve services to our current and future beneficiaries. These projects can lead to better ways to serve persons with disabilities, as well as potentially changing program rules to allow for better coordination among other federal and state programs.
BOND tests a $1 reduction in Disability Insurance benefits for every $2 in earnings over substantial gainful activity (SGA) levels in combination with benefits counseling, with the goal of helping beneficiaries with disabilities return-to-work. The demonstration allows beneficiaries to face a gradual reduction in their benefits, eliminating the abrupt loss of cash benefits under current rules. BOND services to participants began in 2011. A final report was completed in 2018; and is now available at https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityresearch/offsetnational.htm. Beneficiaries in the BOND treatment groups who completed nine Trial Work Period (TWP) months on or before September 30, 2017 are eligible for a five-year BOND Participation Period starting the month after they completed their ninth TWP month. All BOND participation ends September 30, 2022.
The Department of Education awarded grants to five States (Arkansas, California, Maryland, New York, and Wisconsin) and one consortium of States (Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah) to provide services that will improve outcomes for children who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The services were designed to facilitate positive changes in health status, physical and emotional development, education and training, and employment. Project services to enrolled youth started in April 2014; services in some states ended in 2018 and others ended in 2019. All PROMISE projects provided vocational rehabilitation or employment services and all PROMISE participants in the treatment groups may have qualified for protection under Section 301. Social Security is continuing its evaluation of the programs.
Section 823 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) instructs Social Security to conduct a new five-year demonstration project, the POD, to test a benefit offset. In general, benefits are offset on a monthly basis $1 for every $2 earned above the greater of the Trial Work Period (TWP) amount or itemized impairment-related work expenses, and the TWP and Extended Period of Eligibility do not apply. The new rules apply to all volunteers that are randomly assigned to the two treatment groups, and these volunteers receive POD-specific benefits counseling. One treatment group has their benefits terminated if they are in full offset for 12 consecutive months, while the other only has benefits suspended. For participants whose benefits terminate, Medicare coverage will continue for 93 months. All volunteers provide written informed consent to participate and may withdraw from the project at any time. We are conducting the project in parts or all of the following states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, and Vermont. Recruitment began in January 2018 and ended in December 2018. Participation in the project, which is voluntary, will end June 2021.
SED is a demonstration project that evaluates whether offering an evidence-based package of integrated vocational, medical, and mental health services to recently denied disability applicants fosters employment that contributes to: self-sufficiency; improved mental health and quality of life; and a reduced demand for disability benefits. This demonstration project focuses on individuals with mental illness under the age of 50 who applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) disability benefits and received an initial denial. SED will enroll 3,000 individuals for random assignment to one of two treatment groups or a control group. Social Security awarded a contract to implement and evaluate the SED to Westat, Inc., in August 2016. SED will operate through August 2022. Recruitment started in November 2017. Eligible individuals are residing within catchment areas of one of 30 community mental health centers (20 urban and 10 rural) distributed across the United States. Participants are eligible to receive services for 36 months.
RETAIN is a joint demonstration with the Department of Labor (DOL) testing early interventions to help workers stay at work or return to work quickly after experiencing the onset of a work-threatening injury, illness, or disability. The ultimate policy goal is to reduce long-term disability – including the need for SSDI or SSI benefits – and increase labor force participation among those individuals. Participants will consist of individuals who have very recently experienced the onset of an injury, illness, or disability that might affect their ability to continue working, and who have not yet applied for Social Security disability benefits. (Participation in RETAIN does not affect a worker’s eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits.) Many of the projects have a particular focus on workers with musculoskeletal conditions. DOL awarded grants to eight states (California, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Vermont, and Washington) to conduct initial planning and pilot activities. States will begin enrolling participants for small pilot tests in summer 2019, and a subset of the states will continue to full implementation lasting through September 2023. The state projects will test a variety of ways to improve the early coordination of health care and employment-related supports and services for participating workers, including training health care providers in occupational health best practices and facilitating communication and return-to-work efforts between workers, their employers, and their health care providers.
The PWEID is a five-year joint undertaking of Social Security and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The project seeks to evaluate early intervention programs and employment support models designed to produce favorable economic outcomes among low-income individuals who have little to no work experience and ties to broader public assistance programs (e.g., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and SSI). Social Security’s primary interests include evaluations of programs that support individuals with current or foreseeable disabilities who are at risk of applying for SSI as well as persons facing opioid and other substance abuse issues. As part of this arrangement, Social Security will begin supporting the evaluations and/or service provisions of select programs associated with two existing ACF projects, Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families and the Next Generation of Enhanced Employment Strategies beginning in 2019 through 2023.
To keep up with the latest developments and get information about local contacts, visit our internet website: www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch. This site provides information on major activities such as our demonstration projects work incentive policies, and other relevant resources. You can also sign up to get e-mail notices when we post updates.