BOND tests an innovation that allows SSDI beneficiaries to earn more while keeping part of their disability benefits. Forum speakers provided background on BOND, presented findings from the first two years' process and impact analyses, and discussed potential policy and research implications.
Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) Implementation and Evaluation
Administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the nation’s primary income-replacement program for workers who can no longer do substantial work because of a disability. As part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, Congress asked SSA to implement and evaluate a demonstration that would examine a change to SSDI, incorporating a $1 for $2 benefit offset, called the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND).
BOND is a random assignment demonstration that tests variants of SSDI program rules governing work and other supports. Under current program rules, SSDI beneficiaries lose all SSDI benefits after a sustained period of substantial earnings above monthly Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and risk potential loss of other (non-SSDI) benefits. In 2018, the SGA amount was $1,180 per month for non-blind beneficiaries and $1,970 per month for blind beneficiaries. The complete loss of benefits for earnings in excess of the SGA amount is sometimes called the “cash cliff.” BOND replaces the “cash cliff” with a “ramp” (benefit offset) that is expected to increase the earnings of those who might otherwise keep their earnings below the SGA amount and, in so doing, increase their household incomes and reduce their benefits. Specifically, BOND changes the accounting period from monthly to annual and replaces the cash cliff with a benefit offset that gradually reduces benefits when earnings surpass the annual equivalent of the SGA amount.
BOND includes two stages—Stage 1 tests the benefit offset’s impact on the overall SSDI population and Stage 2 tests the offset's impact on those who have signaled a willingness to return to work, respectively. Stage 1 was designed to examine how a national benefit offset and changes to ancillary supports would affect earnings and program outcomes for the entire SSDI population. Stage 2 was designed to learn more about the impacts of the benefit offset for those most likely to use it, and to determine the marginal effects of delivering more intensive Enhanced Work Incentive Counseling services relative to delivering Work Incentive Counseling services.
Mathematica is providing implementation and evaluation support as a subcontractor to Abt Associates. Our implementation work includes training, processing of wage reports, site monitoring, and providing technical assistance. For the evaluation, we developed a follow-up survey and key evaluation reports related to process, participation, and impact findings.