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About the SSDI Solutions initiative


The McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative is a project dedicated to identifying practical policy changes to improve the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and other services to people with disabilities. The SSDI Solutions Initiative issued a call for papers to solicit ideas in a number of areas related to the program, culminating in a conference where authors presented their papers to discussants and attendees. The SSDI Solutions Conference was followed by a publication that compiles the proposals and synthesizes the findings. At the time of the launch of the initiative, the SSDI trust fund was just two years from depleting its reserves; now just six years away, these solutions can help spur a debate on how to ensure the SSDI program best serves those with disabilities, those who pay into the program, and the economy as a whole.

What is SSDI?

SSDI – or Social Security Disability Insurance – is a component of the government-run Social Security program. It provides monthly cash benefits to workers who have one or several medical conditions, which are expected to keep them from earning above a certain threshold for at least a year. The SSDI program has provided important support to millions of workers with disabilities and their families, helping many individuals who are unable to work stay out of poverty.

What is the Purpose of the SSDI Solutions Initiative?

Once the trust fund reserves are depleted, the SSDI program will have insufficient revenues to fully fund these benefits. In addition, there are areas where SSDI and other programs could be improved to better serve workers with disabilities and others who are insured by the program. A number of experts, reviewers, and political leaders have found that improvements should be made to the determination process, program integrity, interactions between SSDI and other federal and state programs, return to work incentives, and early interventions with workers with disabilities, to name just a few areas.

Why Do We Need to Make Improvements to SSDI Now?

In less than six years, the Social Security Disability trust fund is scheduled to run out of reserves, at which point current law calls for benefits to be cut across-the-board by roughly 20 percent. At least in the short-term, avoiding this cut is likely to require either new revenue or some amount of temporary borrowing or reallocation from the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund. However, simply reallocating existing payroll taxes from OASI without doing anything to improve the SSDI program or strengthen the overall state of Social Security would actually weaken the financial state of the OASI program – and for that reason is likely to be controversial.

Instead of viewing the avoidance of trust fund exhaustion as a political liability, we believe policymakers should regard it as a policy opportunity. If provided with thoughtful and practical ideas to improve the SSDI program, policymakers could complement any measures to prevent the depletion of Trust Fund reserves with policies that begin to reform the SSDI program for the better. This means identifying proposals well in advance of the deadline, rather than waiting for Congress to cobble together a last-minute, poorly conceived solution.

Ideally, the projected 2022 date for the trust fund depletion would be used as an opportunity for Congress to enact comprehensive Social Security reform that addresses the shortfalls in both the SSDI and OASI program in order to consider all of the tradeoffs and interactions within the Social Security program. But whether the depletion of the disability insurance trust fund reserves is addressed as part of comprehensive reform or on its own, there will be a need for constructive ideas to improve the program.

How Has the SSDI Solutions Initiative Identified Possible Solutions?

Rather than a top-down approach where we proposed our own ideas, the SSDI Solutions Initiative solicited ideas from experts who have been studying this program for years, and even decades. Specifically, the SSDI Solutions Initiative issued a public “call for papers,” allowing potential authors from different disciplines and ideological backgrounds to submit proposals. The project then selected the most promising ideas to be written into full papers, focused on proposals encompassing a wide variety of areas within the program and placing a special premium on proposals that included "intermediate steps" that could be enacted within the next few years. Once written, the papers went through a peer-review process, were presented at a conference, are available in their final form here.

Who is Leading the SSDI Solutions Initiative?

The SSDI Solutions Initiative is co-chaired by former Congressmen and Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairmen Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Jim McCrery (R-LA). They are assisted by a staff of analysts and an Advisory Council of experts, advocates, and practitioners from across the ideological spectrum. The SSDI Solutions Initiative is a project of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Section 508 Compliance

The SSDI Solutions Initiative is committed to complying with Section 508 standards. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended in 1998, is a federal law that requires agencies to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to electronic information and data comparable to those who do not have disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. The Section 508 standards are the technical requirements and criteria that are used to measure conformance within this law. More information on Section 508 and the technical standards can be found at www.section508.gov.

Project Co-Chairs

Jim McCrery

Former Congressman Jim McCrery served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 21 years. He was a member of the Ways and Means Committee from 1993 through 2008, serving as a ranking member from 2007-2008. Previously, he was Chairman of the Social Security and the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittees.

As ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman McCrery worked closely with Chairman Rangel and other Democratic members to craft bipartisan approaches on health care and trade matters. As a member of the Health Subcommittee for 14 years, Mr. McCrery helped draft and pass a number of major health care bills, including the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.

While Congressman McCrery is widely acknowledged as being well-versed on policy issues, he also understands the political side of Washington, having served for ten years on the executive committee of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Former Congressman Jim McCrery is currently a partner with Capitol Counsel LLC, where he counsels clients on tax, trade, and health care issues.

Earl Pomeroy

Former Congressman Earl Pomeroy represented his home state of North Dakota for 18 years as the state's lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years as Insurance Commissioner.

As Congressman, Mr. Pomeroy served on the Ways and Means and Agriculture Committees, including as Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee. In keeping with his insurance regulatory experience, he was a leader in health, pension and group insurance issues. In Congress, Mr. Pomeroy had a reputation for centrist practical approaches to public policy issues and a willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion.

As Insurance Commissioner, Mr. Pomeroy served as President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, where he advanced a program of minimum standards for financial regulation by state insurance departments, which is still operative today. As Commissioner, he chaired a number of health insurance committees, including small group market reform and standardization of Medicare supplement policies.

Mr. Pomeroy is currently an attorney at Alston + Bird law firm, where he is a member of the health policy group.

Advisory Council Members

Advisory Council members have in-depth expertise and experience with the SSDI program and/or those served by the program. Their role is to provide advice, guidance, and feedback to the project's staff and co-chairs, but they will not be asked or expected to support or endorse any recommendation or set of recommendations.

Lawrence Atkins: Lawrence Atkins is currently Executive Director of the Long-Term Quality Alliance and President of the National Academy of Social Insurance. In 2013 he served as Staff Director of the federal Commission on Long-Term Care. Previously, Atkins had served as Executive Director of U.S. Public Policy for Merck & Co. and had held a similar position at Schering-Plough Corporation. Previously, Atkins was President of the consulting firm Health Policy Analysts. During the 1980s, Atkins served as Republican Staff Director and professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. He was also staff to Senator Heinz as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Private Retirement Plans. In 1982, he was Senator Heinz's Technical Advisor on the National Commission on Social Security Reform. Atkins was a member of the 1991 Advisory Council on Social Security, the Technical Advisory Panel on retirement savings for the 1995 Advisory Council on Social Security, and NASI's 2010 study panel on Health Insurance Exchanges. A founding NASI member, he received his Ph.D. in social welfare policy from Brandeis University.

Andrew G. Biggs: Andrew Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Prior to joining AEI, he was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA's policy research efforts and led the agency's participation in the Social Security Trustees working group. In 2005 he worked on Social Security reform at the National Economic Council and in 2001 was on the staff of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs' work at AEI focuses on Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and comparisons of public and private sector compensation. He holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science and Master's degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London.

Barbara Butz: Barbara Butz is the President and CEO of PolicyWorks and also serves as a Managing Partner of The Capstone Consulting, Inc. She has over 40 years of experience in employment, training and workforce development on the federal, state and local levels. For four years she served as Senior Consultant to MAXIMUS, the Social Security Administration's Operations Support Manager for the Ticket to Work Program, where for two years she served as the National Workforce Team Lead. In this role she had responsibility for training and supporting workforce systems across the country to meet their responsibilities as Employment Networks (job placement agencies) serving people with disabilities receiving SSDI and/or SSI. Barbara also served as the Assistant Secretary for Labor and Employment Security in Florida for four years; State Infrastructure Specialist for Virginia Commonwealth University's National Training Center on Work Incentives, Executive Director of a non-profit employment and training organization; Director of Employment Programs for an urban Community Action Program; and Program Supervisor for Vocational Technical and Adult Education programs for a public school district.

Mary C. Daly: Mary Daly is Senior Vice President and Associate Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In addition, she is active in policy work and has published extensively on how Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income affect the behavior and economic well-being of working-age people with disabilities. She is the author of several books, including Disability Policy in the U.S.: What Went Wrong and a Strategy for Change, with Richard Burkhauser (2011). Daly served as a Visiting Scholar at the Congressional Budget office in 2011-2012 and as a Social Security Administration Technical Advisory Panel Member in 2006-2007. A member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 2003, Daly received her Ph.D. in economics from Syracuse University.

Marty Ford: Marty Ford is Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy at The Arc, a national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Ms. Ford is a recognized leader in federal public policy affecting people with disabilities, particularly long term services and supports, Medicaid, and Social Security disability issues, and has testified numerous times before Congress. Ms. Ford served three years as Chairperson of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD); served on its Board of Directors for 12 years; and served many years as Co-Chair of various CCD Task Forces. Ms. Ford is Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Advance CLASS and has served in numerous long term services and supports policy leadership roles. Ms. Ford is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) and serves on NASI's Board of Directors and its Finance Committee. She was recognized as the distinguished honoree for disability policy at NASI's 25th anniversary celebration in 2011. A member of the American Bar Association, she has served on its Commissions on Disability Rights and Law and Aging. She received her J.D. from the George Washington University National Law Center; M.S. from Pratt Institute; and B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Steve Goss: Mr. Goss is Chief Actuary at the Social Security Administration. He has been with SSA for over 30 years, working in areas related to health insurance and long-term-care insurance as well as pension, disability, and survivor protection. Goss has been a staff participant representing the Office of the Chief Actuary at the President's Commission on Pension Policy, the 1979, 1991, and 1995 Advisory Councils, and the National Commission on Social Security Reform. He worked closely with Congressional staff on the 1983 Social Security Amendments, testified at Committee hearings, and was instrumental in the development of the provision for increasing the normal retirement age.

Ron Haskins: Mr. Haskins is a senior fellow in the Economic Studies program and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. From February to December of 2002 he was the senior advisor to the President for welfare policy at the White House. Prior to joining Brookings, he spent 14 years on the staff of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, first as welfare counsel to the Republican staff, then as the subcommittee's staff director. He has appeared frequently on radio and television and has written articles and editorials for several newspapers including the Washington Post and New York Times. His areas of expertise include welfare reform, child care, and budget and deficit issues. In 1997, Haskins was selected by the National Journal as one of the 100 most influential people in the federal government.

Andrew Houtenville: Dr. Andrew Houtenville is an Associate Professor of Economics and Research Director of the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. He is extensively involved disability statistics and employment policy research. He has published widely in the areas of disability statistics and the economic status of people with disabilities. Dr. Houtenville received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of New Hampshire in 1997 and was a National Institute on Aging Post-Doctoral Fellow at Syracuse University in 1998/1999. He was also a Senior Research Associate at Cornell University and New Editions Consulting in McLean, Virginia.

Andrew Imparato: Mr. Imparato is the Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Prior to the AUCD, he worked for Chairman Harkin on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as a Senior Counsel as well as the Disability Policy Director. He also served as the President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and he has worked at both the National Council on Disability and the Disability Law Center in Boston. He is widely recognized for his tireless leadership and advocacy for people with disabilities and has been honored numerous times for his work.

Neil Jacobson: Neil Jacobson is the founder and CEO of Abilicorp, a business innovation consulting company that seeks to increase employment for people with disabilities. Neil retired in 2008 from Wells Fargo Bank after 29 years, most recently serving as Senior Vice President in charge of their System Automation Management and Wireless Technology Divisions. Over the past 35 years Neil has been an advocate and change agent for the economic development of people with disabilities. In 1975 he co-founded the CIL Computer Training Program, a nationally recognized training program, enabling people with significant disabilities to become computer programmers. Neil has continued his work on economic development for people with disabilities as a Board member and past Chair of the World Institute on Disability (WID).

Stanford Ross: Mr. Ross received a Harvard Law degree in 1956, and served in the White House on the domestic policy staff of President Johnson from 1967 to 1969; he is currently a retired partner at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C. He was Commissioner of Social Security during the Carter Administration, from 1978-1979. Mr. Ross is a Director, former President, and founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, and served as Chair of its International Understanding Committee. In addition, he served as a public trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds during the Bush and Clinton Administrations. He became a Public Trustee of Social Security in 1990, and served through 1995. He also served as Chair of the Social Security Advisory Board from 1997-2002.

Robert D. Reischauer: Robert Reischauer is president emeritus of the Urban Institute and of the two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. He led the Urban Institute for twelve years before he stepped down in February 2012. Between 1989 and 1995, he was the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), after serving as CBO's assistant director for human resources and deputy director. Reischauer was previously a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program of the Brookings Institution and senior vice president of the Urban Institute. A nationally recognized economist, Reischauer has written and lectured on a wide range of topics including federal budget policy, health reform, social welfare issues, and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. He was a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from 2000-09 and was its vice chair from 2001-08. He also chaired the National Academy of Social Insurance’s project, “Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term.” He holds an A.B. from Harvard and a master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia.

C. Eugene Steuerle: Eugene Steuerle is the Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute and author of a column and blog, the Government We Deserve. Among past positions, he has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Analysis, President of the National Tax Association, Chair of the Technical Panel advising Social Security on methods and assumptions, Vice-President of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and economic coordinator of the Treasury Department's efforts leading to the Tax Reform Act of 1986.  He co-founded the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, and Act for Alexandria, a community foundation that he now also chairs.  His research and writings span sixteen books, including Dead Men Ruling, Retooling Social Security for the 21st Century and Social Security and the Family, and over one thousand articles and columns.  He received his Ph.D. with distinction in public finance, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

William Taylor: William C. Taylor spent his entire career with the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (formerly called the Office of Hearings and Appeals), which is responsible for the administrative law judge hearing and Appeals Council review processes. He served for 11 years as the Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations and Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council, and for 8 years as Deputy Associate Commissioner of the Office of Hearings and Appeals. On two occasions he received a Presidential Rank Award as a Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service. After his retirement in 2008, he returned to SSA on a limited basis to work on special projects as well as mentoring and training. Mr. Taylor is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the Georgetown University Law Center. He is a member of the Virginia Bar.

Rebecca Vallas: Rebecca Vallas is the Director of Policy for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress. Before joining American Progress, Vallas served as the deputy director of government affairs at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, or NOSSCR, where she developed and managed legislative and communications strategies to preserve and strengthen Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income for workers with disabilities. She also served as a co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force. Prior to that, Vallas worked directly with poor and low-income individuals and communities as a legal aid attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia for several years, where she was named a Skadden Fellow and a Borchard Fellow in Law & Aging. She is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and was the inaugural recipient of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association's New Leaders in Advocacy Award. She has twice been named as one of Forbes' “30 Under 30” for Law & Policy in 2011 and 2014.

Project Staff

This project is supported by staff from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Mike Murphy, Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Initiatives

Marc Goldwein, Senior Vice President and Senior Policy Director

Ed Lorenzen, Senior Advisor

Corbin Evans, Legislative Associate

Chris Towner, Program Associate

David Barnes, Consultant


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