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School of Education professor testifies to U.S. House on Social Security Disability Insurance reforms

Watch Dr. John Kregel's testimony, which begins around the 1:00:40 mark, to the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Ways and Means

Dr. John Kregel, professor in the School of Education’s Department of Special Education and Disability Policy and associate director of the affiliated Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, testified before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Ways and Means on July 9.

One of five speakers selected by the committee, chaired by former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, for the hearing, Kregel’s testimony addressed ways in which the Social Security Disability Insurance program can help its beneficiaries obtain and maintain employment, improve their financial independence and decrease their reliance on federal benefits.

Backed by a variety of research data and case studies, Kregel’s testimony centered around four major talking points:

  • Disability insurance beneficiaries make employment decisions based on their financial situation, health, and other personal factors.
  • Disability insurance beneficiaries frequently identify the current program rules as a major disincentive to pursuing stable, long-term employment.
  • Disability insurance beneficiaries must comply with rules that are complex, difficult, time consuming, and too often result in unnecessary overpayments and unexpected benefit suspension.
  • Future improvements to the program rules should eliminate the “all or nothing” aspect of a beneficiaries’ decision to return to work and promote long-term beneficiary engagement with the program.

In addition to Kregel, the committee also heard testimony on the subject of Social Security Disability Insurance reform from four other witnesses: Mike Zelley, president of The Disability Network; James Smith, budget and policy manager for the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Jill Houghton, executive director of the U.S. Business Leadership Network and Paul N. Van de Water, senior fellow and director of policy futures at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

To read Kregel’s testimony in full, see the transcript from the hearing [PDF].