Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel: Disability Benefit Reform: Building an Evidence-Base
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Zachary A. Morris, Stony Brook University
Panel Chairs:  David Robertson Mann, Mathematica Policy Research
Discussants:  Jody Schimmel Hyde, Mathematica Policy Research and Joyce M Manchester, Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office

Economic Conditions and SSI Applications
Purvi Sevak, Mathematica Policy Research, Lucie Schmidt, Williams College and Austin Nichols, The Urban Institute

High-Functioning Social Security Disability Beneficiaries: Characteristics, Employment Activities, and Barriers to Work
Zachary A. Morris, Stony Brook University and Stephanie Rennane, University of Maryland

As the two largest earnings replacement programs for working-age adults, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide a critical source of support for nearly twelve million Americans. The rapid growth of these two disability benefit programs suggests, however, that they lie on an unsustainable fiscal path and require near term reform to ensure their continued viability. The Disability Trust Fund that finances the SSDI program is projected to be exhausted as early as 2016, which, absent a reallocation of financing or a cost-saving reform of some kind, could lead to almost a 20% benefit reduction for SSDI beneficiaries nationwide. The expansion of the means-tested SSI program also brings forth a major fiscal challenge that has long concerned policy makers. Bringing together diverse, policy-relevant research on the SSI and SSDI programs, the theme of this panel will concentrate on building an evidence-base for possible reforms to the US disability programs. The papers selected for the panel inform our understanding of the causes of program growth, identify target populations for potential employment oriented reforms, and analyze how possible reforms to the disability determination process could affect employment outcomes and net fiscal outlays. To facilitate an engrossing discussion, each presenter will be asked to comment directly on the policy implications of their research. The overall purpose of the panel will be to provide a stimulating examination of the SSI and SSDI programs that illuminates potential pathways to reform that can ensure the future sustainability of the US disability benefit programs.
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