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Summary of Disability Process Improvement Roundtables

October 9, 2020

SUMMARY: In 2018, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee requested that the Social Security Advisory Board (“Board”) examine Social Security’s decision to reinstate reconsideration in the ten prototype states and recommend possible disability determination process improvements at the initial and reconsideration stages. In April 2020, the Board issued a brief examining Social Security’s reinstatement of reconsideration.

Board staff conducted an extensive literature review of possible disability determination process improvement recommendations that informed the development of five public roundtables. Following the roundtables, staff authored a summary that captures views and ideas raised by subject matter experts.



Roundtable Series Archive

“Big Ideas” for Disability Determination Process Improvement

March 27, 2019

Advocates as well as leadership from Disability Determination Services (DDSs) and management associations shared “big ideas” to improve the determination process at the DDS level for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.

Roundtable 1 Agenda 

Roundtable 1 Participant Bios


The Role of Evidence and Experts in Social Security’s Disability Determination Process in Adult Claims

November 21, 2019

This roundtable brought together researchers, former Social Security executives, and advocates to discuss a series of academic, government, and policy proposals focused on evidence and expertise in the disability determination process. Key proposals and related recommendations discussed included: “An Operational Approach to Eliminating Backlogs in the Social Security Disability Program” by Gerald Ray and Glenn Sklar and published by the Committee for a Responsible Budget (CRFB), “Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination,” a report published by the National Academies of Science, Engineer and Medicine (NASEM), “Functional Assessment for Adults with Disabilities,” also published by NASEM, and two recommendations (each pertaining to the establishment of process improvement pilot projects) from the Bipartisan Policy Center Working Group on Disability Insurance paper, “Improve the SSDI Program and the Address the Impending Trust Fund Depletion.”

Roundtable 2 Agenda 

Roundtable 2 Participant Bios


Performance Metrics and Data Analytics in the Quality Review Process

November 21, 2019

The focus of this discussion was Social Security’s quality review process, performance measurement, and its use of data analytics to inform both. Key proposals and related recommendations discussed included: Ray and Sklar’s CRFB paper, “An Operational Approach to Eliminating Backlogs in the Social Security Disability Program” and two reports by Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General, “Resolving Issues Identified During the Social Security Administration’s Quality Reviews of Disability Determinations” and “Training at Offices that Make Disability Determinations.”

Roundtable 3 Agenda 

Roundtable 3 Participant Bios


The Claimant Experience in Social Security’s Disability Process

January 30, 2020

Subject matter experts (including a current SSDI beneficiary) discussed the challenges of the application process from the claimant perspective. The group also discussed opportunities to improve Social Security’s application and related forms, as well as promising approaches to claim development and claimant outreach. A published proposal discussed was “Fresh Perspectives: Improving the Adult Disability and Function Reports through Behavioral Science and Claimant Feedback,” authored by Megan Stanley and funded by the Social Security Administration. The group also discussed ideas raised at prior roundtables and elements of the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program.

Roundtable 4 Agenda   

Roundtable 4 Participant Bios


Testing and Evaluating Proposed Improvements to Initial and Reconsideration Level Disability Determinations

May 28, 2020

The roundtable focused on testing and evaluating possible changes to Social Security’s initial and reconsideration level disability determination processes. It brought together researchers and former Social Security executives to discuss topics including facilitating Social Security’s research and evaluation, evidence collection, and Social Security’s approach to quality assurance. Specific proposals discussed included Jack Smalligan and Chantel Boyens’ Urban Institute paper, “Improving the Social Security Disability Determination Process” and David Stapleton et al’s paper published by the CRFB, “Development of an Employment/Eligibility Services (EES) System.”

Roundtable 5 Agenda 

Roundtable 5 Participant Bios