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Can Social Security Benefits Support Disability Beneficiaries’ Efforts to Work?


  • Can changes to disability benefit rules encourage Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to work?
  • Two-stage, multi-arm random assignment study examines effects of financial incentives and enhanced work incentives counseling on earnings and benefit receipt.
  • The study produces evidence about the effects of a change to SSDI program rules.
The Challenge

If they can retain their disability benefits, will Social Security beneficiaries be encouraged to work? Abt Associates is answering this question for the Social Security Administration (SSA) through our implementation and evaluation of the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND).

The Approach

The nine-year project, includes two stages. Stage 1 supports an evaluation of how a national benefit offset—or reduction in benefits rather than an abrupt halt (“cash cliff”) — would affect program outcomes for the entire Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) population. Stage 2 is designed to learn more about the impacts on those most likely to take advantage of the offset (recruited and informed volunteers) and determine the extent to which significant enhancements to counseling services affect impacts.

The Results

Abt’s findings promise critical insights as to whether allowing beneficiaries to keep more of their benefits — despite reaching a certain earnings threshold — motivates them to increase their work effort and earnings.  In addition to offering this financial incentive, the demonstration also will test whether offering BOND participants enhanced counseling — to help them understand the SSDI rule changes and how to take advantage of them — will lead to higher earnings than eliminating the substantial gainful activity “cash cliff” without additional counseling.  The results of BOND will be used to determine whether and how rules for SSDI should be changed.


Related Highlights:

BOND Process Study

BOND Stage 1 Early Assessment Report

BOND Stage 2 Early Assessment Report

BOND Third-Year Snapshot of Earnings and Benefit Impacts for Stage 1

BOND Second-Year Snapshot of Earnings and Benefit Impacts for Stage 1

BOND First-Year Snapshot of Earnings and Benefit Impacts for Stage 1