Rockville, Md., December 9, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The Social Security Administration (SSA) and Abt Associates have published a book, Experiences from SSA demonstrations for disability policy and future research, which summarizes more than 30 years of demonstration projects that tested new policies. The demonstrations were aimed at improving the major federal disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and helping the people who depend on them. Understanding this research is crucial to developing sound, evidence-based disability policies and effective support for people with disabilities who want to work.

Volume is based on a State of the Science meeting organized by SSA, Abt and its partner, Hatcher Group, in the spring of 2021 to review the key experiences from SSA’s demonstrations. Recordings of the meeting can be found at Abt’s website and further information is on SSA’s website.

The most important things from the analysis include:

  • Politicians should reconsider expectations of how many SSDI recipients and SSI recipients will return to work, and expectations of defining successful results for return to work.
  • In addition, it is important to determine what society is most interested in – goals for well-being or goals for program savings and program completion.
  • Overall, the interventions tested so far have been more successful in producing increases in employment than sustained higher earnings, reduced benefit payments or the termination of the disability program.
  • Different population groups have different needs, and while targeting can be challenging, it can also be more effective.
  • To improve demonstration design and research, it is important for policy makers to ensure a diverse set of stakeholders, researchers and participants in demonstrations.
  • Evaluation designs that examine the effects of separate intervention components can be improved over previous evaluations to identify the impact of specific program features.
  • New data matches, qualitative data and implementation measures can go beyond the effect analyzes to explain why a demonstration had its measured effect.

“This new volume demonstrates the unique value of the SSA’s Provisional Demonstration Authority, both in identifying impacts and highlighting what we do not yet know,” he said. Austin Nichols, principal investigator for Abt Associates. “Popular ideas focus on changes in unemployment benefit rules, which tend to have very small effects on employment. More comprehensive and targeted services tend to have greater effects. Many of the promising paths would need new research to refine their design if we are to build the most effective policies. “

Contributors to the volume are affiliated with the following institutions: Abt Associates; Bloomberg School of Public Health; California Policy Lab; Mathematica; Center for Budgetary and Political Priorities; Federal Statistical Research Data Center; Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Byinstituttet; Johns Hopkins University; Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Michigan United Cerebral Palsy; National Bureau of Economic Research; Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor; Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Office of Research, Demonstration and Employment Support, Social Security Administration; Office of Pension and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration; Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, Virginia Commonwealth University; University of California Los Angeles; Data funds; George Washington University; University of Chicago; University of California, Berkeley; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland School of Medicine; University of New Hampshire; University of Wisconsin-Madison; US Government Accountability Office; WE Upjohn Department of Employment Research; Williams College; and Work Incentive Planning and Assistance National Training and Data Center, Virginia Commonwealth University.


About Abt Associates

Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that combines data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. We work with customers and communities to promote equality and innovation – from creating scalable digital solutions and fighting infectious diseases, to mitigating climate change and evaluating measurable social impact programs.


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