Absence of conflict of interest: This study was conducted by staff from Mathematica Policy Research, which administers CLEAR. Therefore, the review of this study was conducted by an independent consultant trained in applying the CLEAR causal evidence guidelines.
Stapleton, D., Wittenburg, D., Gubits, D., Judkins, D., Mann, D.R., & McGuirk, A. (2013). BOND implementation and evaluation: First-year snapshot of earnings and benefit impacts for Stage 1. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates, Inc.; Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
- The study’s objective was to measure eight-month impacts for Stage 1 of the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND), which tested whether a more-generous work incentive for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients affected their employment rates, earnings, and reliance on benefits.
- The study was a randomized controlled trial; eligible SSDI recipients were randomly assigned to the treatment group, which was eligible for the benefit offset, or a control group that was not. The authors analyzed data from the Master Earnings File (MEF), Master Beneficiary Record (MBR), and Supplemental Security Record (SSR).
- The study found that the BOND intervention had no significant impact on total earnings or total SSDI benefits paid over the eight-month follow-up period.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the effects estimated in the study are attributable solely to the BOND, and not to other factors.
The Benefit Offset National Demonstration
Features of the Intervention
Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the BOND was designed to test variants of SSDI program rules to increase the incentive for SSDI recipients to work and reduce their reliance on benefits. The primary intervention was a benefit offset that replaced the so-called cash cliff SSDI recipients who work eventually experience. The cash cliff refers to the fact that SSDI recipients who have completed a nine-month trial work period followed by a grace period of three months have all their SSDI benefits suspended or terminated if they earn more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount. The benefit offset replaces the complete loss of all benefits for working SSDI recipients, instead gradually decreasing the SSDI benefit by $1 for every $2 earned above the SGA amount. The Benefit Offset Pilot Demonstration (BOPD) pilot tested BOND in four states.
Features of the Study
The BOND was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial including all SSDI recipients in 10 randomly selected sites throughout the nation who were ages 20 to 59 and receiving benefits payments in April 2011. All eligible recipients were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, which was eligible for the enhanced work incentives, or a control group, which received services as usual. This analysis sample included 968,713 subjects (77,115 in the treatment group and 891,598 in the control group).
The authors used multiple SSA administrative data sources to measure impacts: the MEF included annual earnings information, the MBR provided SSDI participation information, and the SSR provided Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participation information.
- Arizona/Southeast California
- DC Metro
- Greater Detroit
- Greater Houston
- Northern New England
- South Florida
- Western New York
- The study found that the BOND had no significant impact on employment rates, earnings, or total SSDI benefits paid over the eight-month follow-up period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
This report covered impacts measured over an eight-month follow-up period. The authors attributed the lack of statistically significant findings to the relatively short period for treatment subjects to receive notification of their enrollment, learn about the benefit offset, and adjust their employment behaviors accordingly, and the requirement that treatment subjects completed a trial work period and grace period—which took at least 12 months—before they could use the benefit offset.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the effects estimated in the study are attributable solely to the BOND, and not to other factors.