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Project Number: p05-02c

The Largest Social Insurance Program in the World: A Comprehensive Accounting of Federal Disability Expenditures in the United States

Principal Investigators: Monroe Berkowitz and Scott Szymendera

Project Type: Core Research

Project Year: 05

Thematic Category: Economic Aspects of Disability

Project Summary:

It has often been observed that the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs constitute the largest social insurance program in the world. Because of their size and scope, the SSDI and SSI programs impact every area of disability policy in the United States and contribute to the overall federal government spending on disability. This project will examine the total expenditures of the United State federal government on disability related programs and benefits. This systematic and comprehensive accounting will be the first of its kind in the field of disability research and will give policy makers and researchers a key tool for further study of the economic impact of disability in the United States.

In order to provide this comprehensive accounting of disability expenditures, this project will first examine all areas of the federal government in which money is spent on disability. Then, the costs of each program and benefit will be determined from official budget data and consultative discussions with key agency officials.

The results of this project will provide a framework for future studies on disability expenditures at the federal, state, and local level, and will provide key information to researchers and policy analysts as they study other areas of disability policy including efforts to reform the SSDI and SSI programs. Finally, for the first time, policy makers and the public will be able to determine how much the federal government could save if, by some means, disability in the United States could be eliminated.