The following projects have been completed:

HOPE Congress provided $8 million annually in FY 2003, 2004, and 2005 directing SSA to use the appropriations to provide outreach and application assistance to “homeless and under-served populations.” We used this earmarked funding to establish the Homeless Outreach Projects and Evaluation (HOPE) program. The HOPE initiative focused on assisting eligible, chronically homeless individuals in applying for SSI and SSDI benefits. We developed the project to test the effectiveness of using skilled medical and social service providers to identify and engage homeless individuals with disabling conditions and assist them in filing for benefits within current policy.

We awarded $6.6 million in cooperative agreement funding to 34 public and private organizations in April 2004 and an additional $1.2 million in cooperative agreement funding to 7 organizations in November 2004. All HOPE projects were closed as of October 2009.

HOPE Final Evaluation Report

SEE: http://www.ssa.gov/homelessness/ for SSA’s Service to the Homeless Activities and related policies.

Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)
Pathways to Transitions Project

We provided funds to help support OECD’s five-year study on Pathways to Transitions for People with Disability into Tertiary Education and Work.  The purpose of the Pathways project was to learn more about other developed countries’ special education programs and supports in order to identify best practices that facilitate successful outcomes for students with disabilities in transition from secondary education to tertiary education and work.

The five-year OECD Pathways project included the preparation and analysis of participating country reports, a three-year longitudinal study, and case studies. In addition to the USA, the OECD countries that participated in one or more phases of the Pathways project included: Norway, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Portugal, France, Estonia, and the Republic of Korea.

Information gained from this study will assist in preventing children with disabilities who are not currently on our rolls from eventually becoming beneficiaries once they reach adulthood, providing necessary supports and identifying best practices to help transition youths with disabilities.

For more information on OECD's Youth Transition study, see OECD website at:
http://www.oecd.org/document/34/0,3746,en_2649_39263294_47953762_1_1_1_1,00.html

The Pediatric Medical Unit (PMU) project offered additional pediatric medical expertise to assist State and Federal adjudicators in their development and review of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability cases.  In January 2006, SSA contracted with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the PMU project.  PMUs were established in seven locations across the nation and were staffed by personnel representing a range of medical disciplines.  Sixteen Disability Determination Services (DDS) offices and several Hearing Offices (HO) were selected to participate in the PMU project through referral of selected cases to a designated PMU.  Depending on the type of request received, the PMU would either provide a comprehensive case assessment based on the existing case record or conduct a face-to-face clinical assessment of the child.  DDSs and HOs could then incorporate these PMU assessments in the case record as an additional basis for case decision-making.

By late 2007, SSA determined that the PMU project was no longer viable due to a number of significant operational and evaluative limitations, and the agency decided to cease all project operations by April 2008.

State Partnership Initiative The State Partnership Initiative (SPI) was designed to help Project States in the development of programs of employment support services for their residents with disabilities that would (1) increase job opportunities; (2) decrease dependence on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits; and (3) foster the development of community resources. SSA provided five-year funding to twelve States (California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Wisconsin) to develop innovative projects to assist individuals with disabilities in their efforts to reenter the workforce. These awards helped States develop State-wide programs of services and support for their residents with disabilities that increased job opportunities for them and decreased their dependence on benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). California, Vermont, New York, and Wisconsin implemented SSI waivers to test alternative rules. The SPI projects began in 1998 and ended in 2004.

To view this report, please go to SPI Evaluations and Conclusions Reports.

TANF-SSI Disability Transition Project

Both welfare agencies and the Federal disability system seek to support people with disabilities and help them become more independent.  However, the two systems often have differing missions and organization, definitions of disability, operational and financial issues, and work rules and incentives, making it challenging for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs to work together.  TANF clients who apply for SSI may also encounter conflicting messages from TANF agencies regarding work requirements and benefit eligibility.

To help us understand the relationship between the TANF and SSI populations and programs better, we worked with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to launch the TANF-SSI Disability Transition Project (TSDTP) in October 2008.  The ACF, TANF agencies, and low-income individuals with disabilities and their families all benefit from effective and efficient services — moving toward employment when possible, making informed decisions about applying for SSI, receiving SSI as quickly as possible, and reducing administrative costs. 

Working with ACF, TANF agencies in California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York, select counties in these states, and the evaluation firm MDRC, we analyzed program data and pilot-testing several program interventions for TANF clients with disabilities. 

Analysis of merged TANF and SSI administrative data and field assessments in seven sites identified the following findings:

  • The overlap between the TANF and SSI populations is not large. Less than four percent of SSI applicants in FY 2007 received TANF at some point during the year prior to their SSI application.
  • There is little formal coordination between TANF and SSA.  It is often informal, locally based, and driven by personal relationships. Most TANF staff members know little about our disability determination process.
  • There is no evidence that TANF agencies are inappropriately pushing TANF recipients to SSI. Despite the lack of coordination between TANF and SSA, TANF recipients who apply for SSI are equally likely to be awarded benefits when compared to SSI applicants who are not TANF recipients.

Three States pilot-tested programmatic innovations, with the following key findings:

  • Providing an array of co-located services targeting TANF recipients with work impairments increased employment and earnings.
  • Improving the level coordination and communication between a TANF agency and SSA did not result in substantial improvements of SSI applications.

On December 31, 2013, the project concluded with the following final reports  on data analysis, program coordination, pilot test observations, and options for a larger demonstration project.

Vocational Expert Study Panel On January 11, 2006, SSA awarded a contract to SSDC Corporation to convene an expert panel of vocational and occupational medical experts and disability policy and program experts to study SSA’s use of vocational and occupational medical expertise throughout the disability determination process, what changes can be made to improve case adjudication, and what qualifications we should require.  

SSA selected 21 vocational and occupational medical experts to serve on this panel including individuals with expertise in occupational medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy, nursing, case management, individuals with disabilities, and the disability community.  In addition, SSA included disability determination services administrators and administrative law judges. After several discussions and the reviews of distributed background materials, this expert panel met in July 2006 to prepare a report including recommendations for the Commissioner.

We received the Final Core Report from SSDC, "Use of Functional/Vocational Expertise", on March 27, 2007.