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SSAB Releases a Commissioned Paper on the Unintended Consequences of Social Security’s Return to Work Policies

March 9, 2023

Washington, DC – Today, the Board is releasing a report it commissioned to examine critical issues affecting Social Security disability beneficiaries who return to work. The report highlights the disincentives in Social Security’s return to work policies both in its design and administration. The Board has ongoing interest in SSA’s implementation of return to work policies and their effects on beneficiaries.

The paper is authored by Urban Institute policy researchers Jack Smalligan and Chantel Boyens. Commissioned as an independent report, this paper reflects the authors’ views, not necessarily those of the Board or any individual member.

Read the Report

The majority of DI beneficiaries who exhaust available work incentives experience an overpayment. In this paper, Smalligan and Boyens discuss how current program rules aimed at incentivizing work could be improved. They recommend SSA adopt a prospective eligibility and certification process to reduce work-related overpayments.

About the Authors

Jack Smalligan is a senior policy fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute and the principal investigator for the Social Security for Tomorrow’s Workforce project. He analyzes the interactions across disability, retirement, and paid leave policies. Previously, he was deputy associate director at OMB and served five administrations since 1990.

Chantel Boyens is a principal policy associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. She focuses on interactions between Social Security programs and retirement, pensions, disability, and paid leave policies. Before joining Urban, Boyens was acting branch chief and senior program examiner in the Income Maintenance Branch of OMB.


The Board’s mission is to advise the President, Congress, and Commissioner of Social Security on the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs. The Board is comprised of Presidential and Congressional appointees with professional staff.