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The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs
subject matter under consideration. The successful reform of a disability decision process and the implementation of the national disability monitoring system depend on the resolution of these problems. The committee recognizes that the recommended enhancements would require substantial additional funds and qualified staff. This concluding chapter briefly addresses those issues.
As shown in the previous chapters, the number of disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on disability, as well as the costs of these programs, has grown substantially since the beginning of the programs. Continued growth is projected as the baby boom generation reaches the age of increased likelihood of disability. At the same time, disability policy has become more complex. Extensive research is needed to understand, estimate, and forecast growth to inform and guide public policy.
Over the years staff of the Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics (ORES) in SSA has conducted a variety of excellent surveys and studies. Establishing and maintaining high-quality and relevant data systems for appropriate analysis and dissemination requires a sufficient and capable intramural research staff. The committee finds that there has been a loss of survey design and analytical capacity at the very time such work needs to be expanded. In the past two decades, downsizing has adversely affected both the ORES and the disability program (Institute for Health and Aging, 1997). A lesson learned from the experience with the National Study of Health and Activity (NSHA) is the importance of staffing to handle the issues that are critical in launching a large complex survey. The current impoverished research capability in SSA not only affects the timely analysis of data collected, but also leads to inability to anticipate important issues and respond to them. If not corrected, this situation will impair the ability of SSA to meet its policy needs in the twenty-first century.
The committee notes the limited resources allocated to all Social Security research activities. Two recent reports of the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB, 1997, 1998) also noted the very small number of staff positions and budget amounts devoted to research and recommended that SSA increase its intramural and extramural research activities. A third report (Institute for Health and Aging, 1997) reviewed the mission, resources, and capabilities of SSA’s Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics and recommended that at least 50 new full-time positions be added to the ORES staff to strengthen the internal research and evaluation