As many people know, Social Security has had a demonstration project going for almost seven years now. This is the Benefit Offset National Demonstration Project (BOND). It is going on in ten sites across the country and will be ending on September 30, 2017. This is a bit confusing because there will still be a significant number of beneficiaries who will continue to be in the project for up to several years after that date. What will end in September is the involvement of the agencies who were sub-contracted to provide WIC or EWIC services. After September, these agencies will no longer be able to provide any of these services. These tasks will be assumed by a team from Abt Associates and Mathematica. Until then, the WIC and EWIC agencies are involved in what SSA is calling the off-boarding process to close out those beneficiaries who are ending by September. The beneficiaries who are or will be off-boarded are being referred to the local WIPA program in case they need any on-going services or supports.
It is very important to note that if a beneficiary in BOND was receiving the offset up to the date they are off-boarded, then the next month their disability check will return to its pre-BOND amount until the local SSA office can get a work review done. These beneficiaries are told about this and given information in their off-boarding packets. If you are working with anyone who goes through this, be sure to reinforce the idea that they can’t assume they can keep the full disability check amount. The beneficiary needs to be aware that when the local SSA office finally completes their work review, it is very possible that SSA will require that some, or even all, of the disability check be returned. The local WIPA programs and SSA offices are also supposed to be aware of this.
There is now a second demonstration project in the works. The project is called Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD), and was authorized in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The contract to implement was awarded to Abt this year, and they are now working to get the project up and running. The information available indicates that it does include the offset which will basically kick in when someone goes to work and reaches either the trial work level or has IRWEs up to SGA (whichever is greater). They are looking to enroll 15,000 SSDI “volunteers” in one of three groups:
- Control group – where nothing changes;
- Treatment group 1: gets the offset and no loss of entitlement; and
- Treatment group 2: gets the offset and after 12 consecutive months of SSDI benefits reduced to zero, has entitlement terminated
The budget act does clearly state that beneficiaries who enroll in the program can leave it at any time.
At this point, Abt is planning on having Mathematica handle recruiting the beneficiaries, and then Abt will take over. They are working on developing agreements with subcontractors to help implement the program, but did not have any specific information on this. In addition to the offset services, it will include benefit counseling and a call center for participants. They did not report on any specific strategies for obtaining the pay stub and IRWE information that will be needed to meet the monthly reporting that will be required. Recruitment of beneficiaries is scheduled to start November 2017 and run through December 2018. Subcontractor services are scheduled to begin November 2017 and run through mid-2021. Tentatively, this project will run in the following states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Vermont.
NENA will share any additional information on this project as we receive it.