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].

Helping Public Housing Residents Find Jobs and Build Careers

Helping Public Housing Residents Find Jobs and Build Careers: Evaluation Findings from New York City’s Jobs-Plus Expansion. Urban Institute. Josh Leopold et al. September 6, 2019

Since 2009, New York City has implemented the Jobs-Plus program to increase employment and earnings public housing residents. The program is modeled after a successful federal demonstration from the 1990s that combines employment services, financial incentives, and community supports to promote work. The Urban Institute evaluation of the program combined interviews and focus groups with staff and participants with analysis of data on Jobs-Plus participation, public housing residency, and quarterly earnings before and after implementation. We concluded that the program provided personal, culturally competent employment services and cultivate a network of employers interested in hiring Jobs-Plus participants. Among participants, Jobs-Plus increased employment by 12 percentage points and quarterly earnings by $497. Our evaluation found mixed evidence that the program slightly improved employment rates for residents of the targeted developments and found no evidence that it improved earnings. We attribute this lack of impact primarily to two factors. First, the Jobs-Plus providers might not have assisted a high enough proportion of residents to change overall trends within the developments. Second, our evaluation could not capture the program’s impact on the many participants who lived in the targeted developments but were not officially listed on the lease and were thus not included in our data. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 97 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].

https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/100727/fiscal_democracy_in_the_states-data-appendix_1.pdf

The Intersection of Low-Wage Work and Public Assistance: Workers’ Experiences in Minnesota

The Intersection of Low-Wage Work and Public Assistance: Workers’ Experiences in Minnesota. Urban Institute. Amelia Coffey, Heather Hahn, Yuju Park. July 18, 2019

This is a qualitative study of low-wage workers in two Minnesota communities who recently experienced either voluntary or involuntary job separation. The study confronts a false dichotomy that people are either working or on public assistance. The study analyzes workers’ experiences in low-wage, unstable jobs, reasons for separating from jobs, and the roles public assistance and other supports play in their lives. The study offers key insights from workers themselves on how jobs and assistance programs may be improved to help them achieve greater stability and economic security. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 56 pages].

Public Housing Work Requirements: Case Study on the Chicago Housing Authority

Public Housing Work Requirements: Case Study on the Chicago Housing Authority. Urban Institute. Diane K. Levy et al. April 16, 2019

This report presents a case study of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA’s) work requirement policy, one of a small number of work requirements implemented by housing authorities. The report describes the CHA work requirement, the policy’s implementation and how it has changed, and perceptions of implementation and outcomes from key CHA and service provider staff and residents. The CHA work requirement has been in place for nearly 10 years, allowing us to analyze implementation over time and outcomes. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 37 pages].

School District Funding in Virginia: Computing the Effects of Changes to the Standards of Quality Funding Formula

School District Funding in Virginia: Computing the Effects of Changes to the Standards of Quality Funding Formula. Urban Institute. Cary Lou et al. December 20, 2018

Virginia’s distinctive school funding formula is made up of multiple funding streams. Each program’s funding is generally determined based on the minimum cost of meeting program and staffing requirements, and responsibility for meeting these funding obligations is split between the state and districts. In the 2017 school year, the formula resulted in slightly progressive cost-adjusted funding across districts. Changes to the existing formula generally produce modest effects on equity measures and often involve committing additional resources. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 38 pages].

Strategies to Meet the Needs of Young Parent Families: Highlights from Interviews with 14 Programs

Strategies to Meet the Needs of Young Parent Families: Highlights from Interviews with 14 Programs. Urban Institute. Alan D. Dodkowitz, Yuju Park, Shayne Spaulding. September 18, 2018

 In 2013, there were nearly 4.6 million young parents between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States, with approximately 80 percent (3.6 million) living with at least one of their children. These young parents face a host of challenges, ranging from difficulties accessing child care, higher rates of public benefit receipt, and troubles obtaining positive educational and employment outcomes. Despite these issues, there is no overarching strategy to improve the outcomes for young parents. The Urban Institute interviewed 14 different young parent providers across the nation serving a variety of subpopulations, to understand what strategies they used to serve this population. This paper provides an overview of the strategies used to serve young parents, including methods of providing improved education and employment services, connections to support services, and parenting workshops. This paper also highlights the perspectives of service providers on what approaches are needed to serve this population, as well as their views on the many challenges young parents face. This research highlights different methods of improving young outcomes for this population, implications for policy, and where further research should focus. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 30 pages].