Securing the Social Contract: Reforming Social Security Disability

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Securing the Social Contract: Reforming Social Security Disability

January 29, 2015

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The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide financial support to millions of people with disabilities. But despite efforts over the past decade to encourage beneficiaries to return to work or to encourage youth with disabilities to work instead of applying for benefits, participation rates in SSDI and SSI have increased and, once enrolled, few beneficiaries are able to achieve self-support and work up to their potential.

In this report, NCD examines the policies behind these two benefit programs in light of the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The report covers SSA's definition of disability, related research findings, employment incentives in lieu of long-term social benefits as sole income, and recommendations for action by specific entities. The findings call attention to policies and practices that involve comprehensive and affordable health care, workplace supports and services, Medicaid Buy-In programs, tax reform, and temporary private disability insurance funding of supports (e.g., accommodations, rehabilitation, employer training opportunities). Having examined these policies and how they impact the ability of beneficiaries to engage in meaningful work, NCD offers concrete policy recommendations for creating an economic environment that is more supportive of individuals with disabilities working; a revised disability definition; and programmatic changes such as de-linking eligibility for health care benefits from the cash benefit offered by SSI and SSDI. These proposals hold potential to create better opportunities for people with disabilities to work and decrease their reliance on SSI and SSDI for financial support.