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Nov 15 -- The Social Security Administration (SSA) invites comments by January 16, 2024 regarding the proposed new Beyond Benefits Study (BBS).

The BBS will provide SSA with information regarding the needs of individuals who, due to medical improvement or a change in eligibility, have “exited” (called Exiters), or are likely to “exit” (called Possible Exiters) the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, or both. The BBS will provide SSA with a clearer understanding of the challenges and needs of the target population as Exiters leave the safety net and security of disability benefits and attempt to return to work. SSA will use the findings from the BBS to identify potential interventions and policies to help Exiters and Possible Exiters achieve sustainable, substantial work leading to self-sufficiency.

In seeking to understand the needs (e.g., service, medical, and employment) of Exiters and Possible Exiters, the study aims to answer three primary research questions: (1) what are the service, medical, and employment needs required to achieve sustainable, substantive employment among individuals who exit SSDI/SSI programs; (2) what are the types of services, resources, and interventions that will help exiting individuals obtain and retain employment, and should SSA consider a larger test study; and (3) what policy recommendations will facilitate substantive and sustainable employment among individuals who exit SSDI/SSI programs?

The BBS will help SSA answer these questions by collecting data through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Quantitative data collection via the survey will include 4,000 participants stratified by exit status and other criteria. The sample will include 2,000 Possible Exiters, 1,000 Short-term Exiters (have exited within the last year), and 1,000 Long-term Exiters (have exited within the last 1–5 years) with 75% of respondents in each group having a high-scoring likelihood of medical improvement based on the Continuing Disability Review (CDR) profiling model. The sample will be further stratified by program type (SSDI versus SSI) and by recommended determinants of self-sufficiency (e.g., age, type of impairment, and urban or rural locality).

The Motivational Interviewing Pilot Test will recruit 50 Exiters to participate in six sessions. During these sessions, motivational interviewers assess each participant's readiness to return to work using a standardized screener and explore the interest and motivation relating to obtaining and retaining employment as well as career advancement. Participants who drop out after the first session will be replaced.

Data collection via the interviews and focus groups will include (1) qualitative in-depth interviews with Exiters and Possible Exiters (70 individuals); (2) ten focus groups with Exiters and Possible Exiters (140 individuals, total); (3) two focus groups with service providers (20 individuals, total); (4) in-depth interviews with state and agency leadership (30 individuals); and, (5) a focus group with the motivational interview (MI) practitioners (five individuals). The respondents are individuals who have volunteered to take part in the study and are exiting (Exiters) or may be exiting (Possible Exiters) SSA's disability program(s) due to medical improvement or changes in eligibility; vocational service providers; state and agency leadership; and motivational interviewers.

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-25167

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