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Reforming Social Security's Disability Benefits System

Post Date

May 15th 2012

Application Due Date

June 18th 2012

Funding Opportunity Number


CFDA Number(s)

Funding Instrument Type(s)

Cooperative Agreement

Funding Activity Categories

Income Security and Social Services

Number of Awards


Eligibility Categories



  • Estimated Total Funding:


  • Award Range:

    $150000 - $150000

Grant Description

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency charged with making recommendations to Congress and the Administration on issues, policies, and laws affecting people with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide a vital safety net for a growing number of people with disabilities. SSDI cash benefits are payable to eligible disabled workers and their families after a five month waiting period. These benefits currently average $1,070 per month. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), almost half of families receiving SSDI benefits rely on Social Security for the majority of their family income. Some SSDI beneficiaries who meet asset and income limitations or have extraordinary medical expenses also receive Supplemental Security Income. After a two year waiting period, most SSDI beneficiaries are also eligible for Medicare. On average, each disability benefit award is valued at $250,000 in SSDI and Medicare benefits over a beneficiary's lifetime. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), between 1970 and 2009, the number of people receiving disability benefits more than tripled from 2.7 million to 9.7 million. Despite the growth in these programs and several demonstration initiatives to make it easier for people receiving these benefits to transition back to work, the research shows that these programs continue to create work disincentives for applicants and beneficiaries, erode work capacity, foster long-term dependence, and increase poverty among the very people they are intended to help. Additionally, the programs, as they now exist, are not fiscally sustainable. In their 2012 Annual Report, the Social Security Trustees projected that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016. The failings of current policy and the need for major structural reforms have been documented and discussed extensively. Despite repeated calls for reform of these Social Security Programs by scholars, policymakers, and government researchers, no appreciable modernization has occurred in these programs. For example, the criteria for SSI/SSDI eligibility have not changed since the early 1960sя50 years ago. Additionally, though advances in technology, workplace accommodations, and legal protections against discrimination have made it possible for many people with disabilities to work, complete inability to work remains a criterion for receiving social security benefits. In light of the importance of the Social Security Disability programs for people with disabilities, and the impending threat to the fiscal soundness of the Social Security Trust Fund, responsible reforms are needed that will ensure the fiscal integrity of these programs while preserving vital benefits for people with disabilities. NCD would like to update and build on previous work on these issues and develop recommendations to modernize and preserve the Social Security Disability Programs in ways that will optimize work opportunities for the people with disabilities who are able to work and preserve the safety net for those who will not be able to work.

Contact Information

  • Agency

    National Council on Disability

  • Office:


  • Agency Contact:

    Julie Carroll
    Senior Attorney Advisor
    National Council on Disability
    1331 F Street, NW Suite 850
    Washington, DC 20004

  • Agency Mailing Address:


  • Agency Email Address:

  • More Information:

    Notice of Funding Opportunity

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