TN 1 (01-12)
DI 60099.005 Overview of the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) Project
A. Background on the BOND project
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is conducting the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) project under the demonstration authority in section 234 of the Social Security Act. Congress asked SSA to examine ways to improve the Social Security Disability Program and its administration. SSA is conducting the BOND project to see if modifying our rules might help beneficiaries in their efforts to return to work.
The BOND project tests modifications to current program rules that apply only to participating beneficiaries who work and may receive either title II or concurrent title II and title XVI benefits based on disability or blindness. Under current title II program rules, disability beneficiaries who complete their trial work period (TWP) and subsequently engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) have their benefits suspended after a 3-month grace period. Beneficiaries in the BOND project, however, do not lose their benefits at this point. Their benefits reduce $1.00 for every $2.00 earned above the BOND yearly amount. In 2011, the yearly amount is $12,000 for an individual who is not blind or $19,680 for a blind individual.
B. Purpose of the BOND project
The purpose of the BOND project is to test whether gradually reducing benefits $1 for $2 of earnings made over a BOND yearly amount ($12,000 in 2011, for a person who is not blind) will lead to increased earnings and employment for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. In addition, we offer certain BOND participants in a specific treatment group enhanced benefits counseling. The BOND evaluation estimates the impact of the benefit offset and the benefits counseling on work activity, earnings, and continued receipt of SSA cash benefits.
C. Eligibility for the BOND project
The Office of Program Development and Research (OPDR) provided a list of one million beneficiaries to Abt Associates (Abt), the contractor tasked with designing and implementing the BOND Project. That list contains beneficiaries who meet the requirements outlined in DI 60099.010.
D. Initial field office (FO) and 800 Number Network (N8NN) BOND responsibilities
FOs and N8NN sites do not have any role in selecting project participants or in implementing the BOND project. Abt Associates (Abt) recruits and enrolls participants by random assignment. If a caller contacts the FO or the N8NN sites with questions pertaining to the legitimacy of the BOND project, explain the purpose of the project and encourage all individuals to participate. Assure callers that SSA contracted with Abt to design and implement the BOND project.
If the individual inquires about the BOND process, refer the caller to one of the following Abt numbers:
E. Implementation responsibilities
1. Abt Associates (Abt)
In order to minimize the impact the BOND project has on agency resources, SSA contracted with Abt Associates to design and implement the BOND project. Abt has site offices in each of the areas involved in BOND and a national call center. They designed the BOND Operations Data System (BODS) that sends data to SSA via the BOND stand-alone system (BSAS). As the implementation contractor, Abt’s staff is responsible for:
recruiting and enrolling Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in the project;
assisting with work activity development by obtaining the SSA-821-BK (Work Activity Report – Employee), or the SSA-820-F4 (Work Activity Report – Self-Employed Person) for BOND participants;
obtaining proof of income and proof of impairment-related work expenses (IRWE) and subsidy, or special conditions for BOND participants;
issuing receipts to BOND participants for each work estimate received;
assisting with notice explanation; and
assisting with waiver, reconsideration, and hearing requests.
2. BOND work continuing disability review (CDR) unit
The Office of Program Development and Research (OPDR) established a centralized unit in the Office of Program Research and Development (OPDR) to process the work CDRs for BOND participants. Since the work CDRs need special processing to protect the eligibility months of the beneficiary for the offset rules, OPDR established a special unit to handle the work CDRs and issue specialized notices for BOND participants. The CDR unit is also responsible for coding the disability control file (DCF) for beneficiaries who are eligible to receive the $1 for $2 offset. The mailing address for OPDR is: Social Security Administration
Bond Project ORPD/OPDR/OPD 3-D-25B OPR
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
The BOND Fax number in OPDR is (410) 597-0149. The office code is L5R. To transfer a case in eWork to L5R, see instructions in DI 60099.030B.
3. BOND stand-alone system (BSAS)
The BSAS maintains a list of all the names and SSNs of beneficiaries randomly assigned to the BOND project. These beneficiaries are eligible to receive the $1 for $2 offset rules. In addition, the BSAS accepts a nightly file from Abt’s processing systems (BODS) containing earnings estimates for the beneficiaries who are eligible for the $1 for $2 offset. The BSAS processes the earnings estimate and automatically creates a MACADE action to adjust the monthly benefit and generate a notice to the beneficiary. If BSAS cannot generate the MACADE action or a MADCAP exception results, the centralized unit in OCO receives and develops the processing limitation to completion and updates the BSAS with that information.
4. BOND Office of Central Operations (OCO) unit
OCO established a centralized unit to work the processing limitations generated when BSAS cannot automate the MACADE action. In addition, the OCO unit is also responsible for working the MADCAP exceptions.
F. BOND notices
1. Abt’s letters
Working from the list provided by SSA of SSDI and concurrent beneficiaries residing in the demonstration project area, Abt sent letters to potential BOND participants who were randomly assigned to one of two stages: stage 1 or stage 2 (see DI 60099.010A.). Abt began sending letters soliciting possible stage 2 volunteers in February 2011. The solicitation process ends when Abt obtains 12,600 volunteers for stage 2.
Abt sent out initial letters informing stage 1 beneficiaries that they have been selected beginning in April 2011, and completed the Stage 1 mailings in August 2011.
2. SSA notices
SSA generates the following notices to a BOND participant or beneficiary:
Start and end date of participation notice—providing, after random assignment, an overview of the BOND project and describes the participation period;
SGA continuance, SGA due process, and final SGA determination notices—providing notice of these determinations to those assigned to a treatment group include BOND language;
BOND offset notice—explaining initial offset and revised earnings estimates;
Benefit Rate Increase (BRI) adjustment notice—correcting the BRI calculation for those BOND beneficiaries receiving reduced payment amounts due to the BOND offset;
End of Year Reconciliation (EOYR) determination notice—comparing reported estimated earnings with actual earnings;
End date of BOND Participation notice—explaining when BOND participation ends; and
Auxiliary notices—explaining when payments are not payable, or to explain reinstatement of benefits.
NOTE: ORS stores all SSA notices, except the start and end date of participation notice.