4
Concluding Comments

The Disability Evaluation Study (DES), if well designed could be the cornerstone for long-term disability research. It will be of fundamental importance to future analyses by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other researchers. It will provide information that would guide SSA in making decisions about its disability programs and will play a key role in projecting and understanding disability rolls in the future. Moreover, it will lay the groundwork for future surveys. The committee is gratified to note that SSA decisionmakers have given high priority to research and to policy development based on that research. The DES is key to how SSA will deal with the population with disabilities in the future. Until now, SSA has mainly focused on streamlining the claims process by making it more efficient and less time consuming. To ensure effective planning, SSA must explore the fundamental characteristics of who is disabled, how many more people might become disabled, and what can be done to assist people to remain in the workforce. The SSA has not collected such basic information for nearly 20 years and it is long overdue.

The committee, however, has serious reservations about the timeframe for the conduct of the survey. The current plan provides little flexibility in terms of the amount of time available to make deliberate and rigorous decisions on issues of design, procedures, and questionnaire if problems are uncovered during the pilot study. The 3 months allowed between the end of the pilot study and the start of the national survey is clearly inadequate for the kind of analysis and further testing that will be needed to resolve any issues that may arise. The committee understands that the documents reviewed in preparing this report are "works in progress" and that Westat and SSA are already addressing many of the issues raised in this report. Nevertheless, the committee believes that unless the period for testing, analysis, and development is extended, SSA could encounter serious problems during the national survey.



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Review of Disability Evaluation Study Design: Third Interim Report 4 Concluding Comments The Disability Evaluation Study (DES), if well designed could be the cornerstone for long-term disability research. It will be of fundamental importance to future analyses by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other researchers. It will provide information that would guide SSA in making decisions about its disability programs and will play a key role in projecting and understanding disability rolls in the future. Moreover, it will lay the groundwork for future surveys. The committee is gratified to note that SSA decisionmakers have given high priority to research and to policy development based on that research. The DES is key to how SSA will deal with the population with disabilities in the future. Until now, SSA has mainly focused on streamlining the claims process by making it more efficient and less time consuming. To ensure effective planning, SSA must explore the fundamental characteristics of who is disabled, how many more people might become disabled, and what can be done to assist people to remain in the workforce. The SSA has not collected such basic information for nearly 20 years and it is long overdue. The committee, however, has serious reservations about the timeframe for the conduct of the survey. The current plan provides little flexibility in terms of the amount of time available to make deliberate and rigorous decisions on issues of design, procedures, and questionnaire if problems are uncovered during the pilot study. The 3 months allowed between the end of the pilot study and the start of the national survey is clearly inadequate for the kind of analysis and further testing that will be needed to resolve any issues that may arise. The committee understands that the documents reviewed in preparing this report are "works in progress" and that Westat and SSA are already addressing many of the issues raised in this report. Nevertheless, the committee believes that unless the period for testing, analysis, and development is extended, SSA could encounter serious problems during the national survey.