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Event Summary

At a symposium on Capitol Hill on Friday morning, leading experts discussed the effectiveness of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) disability determination process, the business sector’s role in engaging those with work impairments, and the leading proposals for fundamental reform.

George Washington University School of Law professor Richard Pierce began the first panel by discussing the role of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) — who reverse decisions to deny SSDI benefits in over half of appeals — in the disability determination process. Because ALJs have little medical training and cannot be subjected to performance evaluation or quality control measures, Pierce deemed their role in the process as problematic.

The second panel detailed the ways in which the business sector can engage those with work impairments. Kimberly Jinnett of the Integrated Benefits Institute emphasized the value of improved workforce health for employers and presented solutions that merge programs to more effectively integrate benefits.

The final panel detailed several plans for fundamental reform. Richard Burkhauser proposed experience-rating employers based on the costs they impose on the SSDI system by enrolling employees in SSDI. Mathematica’s David Stapleton suggested creating a system with increased federal oversight that would grant waivers to states and localities for experimentation purposes.

The Office of Management and Budget’s Jack Smalligan followed with a proposal emphasizing work-first intervention, voluntary employer-based incentives, and increased Social Security Administration-management flexibility. The Secretary’s Innovation Group’s Jason Turner concluded with a reform plan that draws heavily on lessons from the 1996 welfare reform law.
–Brad Wassink

Event Description

Disability program expenditures and applications are rising at a rapid pace. The Social Security Trustees report predicts that absent change, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund will be insolvent by 2016. These realities point to the need for fundamental changes to the way disability is insured and managed.

This second day of a two-day conference will feature three panels. The first will discuss the extent to which the current disability determination process is effective in selecting and supporting individuals who are unable to work. A second panel will then discuss the role of the business sector in supporting employment for individuals with disabilities. The final panel will discuss several proposals for fundamental SSDI reform. A full-form event description is available for download here.

Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


8:15 AM

8:30 AM
Topic D: The shortcomings of the disability determination process
Opening Remarks:
Richard J. Pierce, Cato Institute

Jo Anne Barnhart, Social Security Administration
Harold Krent, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution

9:45 AM
Topic E: The business sector’s role in supporting employment
Opening Remarks:
Kim Jinnett, Integrated Benefits Institute

Allyn C. Tatum, Tyson Foods
Richard Victor, Workers Compensation Research Institute

Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution

11:00 AM
Topic F: Proposals for reform
Opening Remarks:
Henry Olsen, AEI

Richard Burkhauser, AEI
Jack Smalligan, Office of Management and Budget
David Stapleton, Center for Studying Disability Policies
Jason Turner, Secretary’s Innovation Group

Doug Besharov, University of Maryland

Closing Remarks:
Eloise Anderson, State of Wisconsin

12:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Michelle Hays at [email protected], 414-906-1600 or Brad Wassink at [email protected], 202.862.7197.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

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