TN 4 (02-16)
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.
1. Current rules on Title II programs
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.
2. BOND project rules
Beneficiaries in the BOND project, however, do not lose their benefits at this point. Their benefits are reduced $1.00 for every $2.00 earned above the BOND yearly amount. In 2015, the yearly amount is $13,080 for an individual who is not blind or $21,840 for a blind individual. Prior yearly amounts are in the bullets below, with the non-blind yearly amounts followed by the blind yearly amounts:
2014 - $12,840.00/$21,600.00
2013 - $12,480.00/$20,880.00
2012 - $12,120.00/$20,280.00
2011 - $12,000.00/$19,680.00
B. Purpose of the BOND project
The purpose of the BOND project is to test whether gradually reducing benefits by $1 for each $2 of earnings made over the BOND yearly amount will lead to increased earnings and employment for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. In addition, we offer enhanced benefits counseling to certain BOND participants in a specific treatment group. The BOND evaluation estimates the impact of reducing benefits and the effects counseling on work activity and earnings have on BOND participants.
C. Eligibility for the BOND project
Based on the requirements outlined in DI 60099.010, the Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support (ORDES) provided a list of one million beneficiaries to Abt Associates (Abt), the contractor tasked with designing and implementing the BOND Project.
D. Initial field office (FO), payment centers (PSC) and 800 Number Network (N8NN) BOND responsibilities
FOs, PSCs and N8NN sites did not have any role in selecting project participants or in implementing the BOND project. Abt recruited and enrolled participants randomly. Enrollment occurred between January 2011 and September 2012. If a caller contacts the FO or the N8NN sites with questions pertaining to the legitimacy of the BOND project, follow the instructions in DI 60099.030.
E. Implementation responsibilities
1. Abt Associates (Abt)
In order to minimize the impact the BOND project has on agency resources, SSA contracted with Abt to design and implement the BOND project. Abt has a national call center. They designed the BOND Operations Data System (BODS) that sends data to SSA via the BOND stand-alone system (BSAS). They recruited and enrolled Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in the project. As the implementation contractor, Abt’s staff is responsible for:
assisting BOND participants with obtaining proof of income, impairment-related work expenses (IRWE), subsidy, un-incurred business expenses or special conditions;
issuing receipts to BOND participants for each work estimate received;
assisting with notice explanation; and
assisting with waiver, reconsideration, and hearing requests for BOND overpayments.
2. BOND work continuing disability review (CDR) unit (L5R)
The Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support (ORDES) established a centralized unit in the Office of Program Development (OPD) 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 BOND offset rules, ORDES 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) and updating the BOND computer systems for beneficiaries who are eligible to receive the $1 for $2 offset. The mailing address for ORDES is: Social Security Administration
Bond Project ORDP/ORDES/OPD 3-D-25B OPR
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
The BOND Fax number in ORDES is (410) 597-0149. Please use this if you need to resolve a problem that cannot be handled under normal procedures. The BOND office code is L5R.
To transfer a case in eWork to L5R, see instructions in DI 60099.030D. Always fax documentation into NDRED or eView. Send L5R an MDW when the case needs to be a high priority. There is no need to fax information to L5R if you take the actions described above. For more information on the BOND work CDR unit responsibilities, see DI 60099.045.
3. BOND stand-alone system (BSAS)
The BSAS maintains a list of the names and SSNs of all treatment group 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 system (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 the BSAS cannot generate the MACADE action or a MADCAP exception or processing limitation results, L5R or OCO receives and develops the edit to completion and updates the BSAS with the corrected information. If a MADCAP exception results from the MACADE action, OCO resolves the exception and updates the BSAS with the corrected information. OCO established this centralized unit to work the processing limitations generated when BSAS cannot automate the MACADE action, as well as to work MADCAP exceptions since L5R does not have access to paperless processing. If FOs encounter a case that is not yet worked, they should send an MDW to L5R.
F. BOND notices
1. Abt’s letters
Working from SSA’s list of SSDI and concurrent beneficiaries residing in the demonstration project area (http://bondssa.org/where.php), Abt sent letters to potential BOND participants who were randomly assigned to stage 1 or stage 2 (see DI 60099.010A.). Beginning April 2011, Abt sent out initial letters informing stage 1 beneficiaries that they were selected to participate in BOND. Abt completed the stage 1 mailings in August 2011. Abt began follow up outreach in April 2013 for stage 1 beneficiaries in the treatment group that have not been in contact with the project following the initial letters.
Abt began sending letters soliciting possible stage 2 volunteers in January 2011. The solicitation process ended in September 2012, when Abt obtained 12,600 volunteers for stage 2.
These initial notices from Abt are not stored in the Online Retrieval System (ORS).
2. SSA notices for BOND participant or beneficiary
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 explaining the participation period;
work CDR continuance, trial work period, expedited reinstatement (EXR), SGA due process, reopening, reconsideration, and final SGA determination notices to those assigned to a treatment group with BOND language included;
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;
appeal notice - providing a reconsideration determination for those wanting to appeal the EOYR determination notice;
end date of BOND Participation notice explaining when BOND participation ends; and
auxiliary notice 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.