Improving the Social Security Disability Determination Process

Improving the Social Security Disability Determination Process. Urban Institute. Jack Smalligan, Chantel Boyens. July 26, 2019

The Social Security Administration each year processes millions of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. Currently, 10 states lack a second level review process, known as reconsideration, for disability claims that are initially denied and appealed. SSA has begun to reestablish the reconsideration stage in these states. This move has raised concerns and broader questions about SSA’s overall disability determination process.

In this paper the authors examine SSA’s disability determination process and past efforts to improve SSA’s process, and challenges and lessons for future reform. They identify a path forward that could improve the quality and timeliness of decisions by enhancing the reconsideration process to make it more robust, allowing better decisions to be made earlier, while keeping long-term program costs neutral. To support this approach, they put forward three options Congress could consider to provide sustained funding and commitment to the agreed-upon vision for reform. These options would allow SSA to test strategies and gather evidence to support decision making. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 38 pages].

Fiscal Democracy in the States: How Much Spending is on Autopilot?

Fiscal Democracy in the States: How Much Spending is on Autopilot? Urban Institute. Tracy Gordon et al. July 31, 2019

Governors, lawmakers, and journalists often decry constitutional and statutory formulas, federal grant requirements, and court rulings they think excessively limit state budget decisions.

Some observers estimate as much as 70 percent of state spending is “on autopilot,” meaning these constraints are in place before proposals or negotiations begin.

But measuring predetermined state budget commitments is far from straightforward. The federal government explicitly defines “tax expenditures” and “mandatory spending” and reinforces these concepts through the annual budget process. In contrast, few states rigorously and transparently assess the long-term cost of tax breaks and spending programs that are either fixed in size or will grow automatically without policy changes.

In this report, the authors perform a first-of-its-kind analysis of how much spending was restricted or partially restricted in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Virginia from 2000 to 2015. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 149 pages].

Data Appendix [PDF format, 110 pages].

Enhancing Work Incentives for Older Workers: Social Security and Medicare Proposals to Reduce Work Disincentives

Enhancing Work Incentives for Older Workers: Social Security and Medicare Proposals to Reduce Work Disincentives. Brookings Institution. Robert L. Clark and John B. Shoven. January 31, 2019

The American population is aging; and as a result, a larger share of the actual and potential labor force is now age 55 years and over. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the proportion of the labor force age 55 and over rose from 11.9 percent in 1994 to 21.7 percent in 2014, and the bureau projects that it will increase to 24.8 percent by 2024. The increasing share of the labor force age 55 and older is driven in part by the aging of the population; however, another important component is the substantial increase in the labor force participation rate among older cohorts. The participation rate of individuals age 55 and older rose from 30.1 percent in 1994 to 40.0 percent in 2014. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages].

How Should Social Security Adjust When People Live Longer?

How Should Social Security Adjust When People Live Longer? Urban Institute. C. Eugene Steuerle, Damir Cosic. August 20, 2018

 As people live longer, they spend more time in retirement, straining Social Security’s finances. This brief outlines the implications of three approaches to adjusting Social Security for longer lives: making no adjustment, which has applied over most of Social Security’s history; keeping constant the expected number of retirement years; and keeping constant the relative share of life in retirement. Compared to age 65 retirement in 1940, people under each rule would retire in 2100 at age 65, 79, and 76, respectively. The brief also shows how these calculations can be done under different assumptions. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 6 pages].

A Targeted Minimum Benefit Plan: A New Proposal to Reduce Poverty among Older Social Security Recipients

A Targeted Minimum Benefit Plan: A New Proposal to Reduce Poverty among Older Social Security Recipients. Urban Institute. Pamela Herd et al. April 2, 2018

 In light of concerns about Social Security costs and benefit adequacy, we propose an effective and relatively inexpensive targeted program to provide a minimally adequate floor to old-age income through the program. This minimum benefit plan would provide a cost-effective method for reducing elder poverty to low levels. A key element is that the benefit would not count toward other social programs’ income eligibility thresholds. Other aspects include an income-tested benefit that would bring beneficiaries to the poverty threshold; application by filing of a 1040 income tax return; and setting of benefit levels and distribution through the Social Security Administration. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 17 pages].


Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change

Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change. Atlantic Council. Matthew J. Burrows. September 9, 2016.

According to the report, the West’s postwar social welfare system is under growing threat as the global demographic structure is being turned upside down. And it is not just the West, but also China and other middle-income powers who will have to deal with an aging workforce and unsustainable health and pension costs in the next decade. For sub-Saharan African countries whose birthrates remain high, overpopulation carries big costs not only for them, but for the rest of the world, which will depend on them for a growing proportion of the world’s workforce. Burrows explores how longer life expectancies, aging workforces, and high birthrates will affect the future economic growth and development of countries around the world. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 30 pages, 4.53 MB].

Age, Ageing and Skills: Results from the Survey of Adult Skills

Age, Ageing and Skills: Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Marco Paccagnella. April 22, 2016.

The paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the link between age and proficiency in information-processing skills, based on information drawn from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The data reveal significant age-related differences in proficiencies, strongly suggesting that proficiency tends to “naturally” decline with age. Age differences in proficiency are, at first sight, substantial. On average across the OECD countries participating in PIAAC, adults aged 55 to 65 score some 30 points less than adults aged 25 to 34 on the PIAAC literacy scale, which is only slightly smaller than the score point difference between tertiary educated and less-than-upper-secondary educated individuals. However, despite their lower levels of proficiency, older individuals do not seem to suffer in terms of labor market outcomes. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 75 pages, 2.35 MB].