Ensuring Adequacy for Workers

The Social Security Policy Innovations Challenge: Ensuring Adequacy for Workers is open to individuals, teams of individuals, or organizations concerned about workers with limited employment opportunities who lack the financial security to postpone claiming Social Security benefits until they reach full retirement age. Under the current Social Security benefit structure, early claimants receive substantially reduced monthly benefits throughout their lifetimes. Given that the average retirement benefit is only slightly above the federal poverty level for income, and that most beneficiaries rely on their Social Security benefits as their principal or only source of income, this reduction in benefits likely leaves early claimants without adequate income for the remainder of their lives. The National Academy of Social Insurance, in collaboration with AARP, seeks to identify three-to-five innovative ideas for addressing the income adequacy needs of older workers, who must claim Social Security retirement benefits before their full retirement age due to ill health, an inability to continue to perform physically demanding jobs, or other factors. Each winning proposal will receive an award of up to $20,000-$25,000. Read the press release. Download the updated RFP. (Updated 3-17-19) Download the abstract submission template. (Updated 3-17-19) Interested in participating? Step 1: Sign-up to follow this Challenge. You will receive regular updates about the application process and each stage of the competition. Step 2: Stay tuned for your invitation to join a facilitated discussion (to be held March 5, 2019) to learn more about Social Security and older workers. Participation in this training event is a requirement for competing in the Challenge.

This Policy Innovation Challenge is made possible by:

Eligibility to submit abstracts and proposals is limited to individuals, teams of individuals, and organizations meeting the following criteria:
  • Applicants must demonstrate willingness to collaborate with other applicants with varying perspectives who submit similar proposals
  • Applicants must be willing to accept advice and guidance from experts assigned as advisers/mentors
  • Applicants must participate in a day-long facilitated discussion during the initial stage of the application process
  • Employees of sponsor or partner organizations are not eligible to submit proposals
  • Organizations do not need to have non-profit status. (Note: This has been amended from the original RFP.)
  • Individuals do not need to be affiliated with a non-profit organization.(Note: This has been amended from the original RFP.)
Expertise in Social Security policy is not a requirement for participation in this Challenge. The Academy will work with applicants to develop policy ideas that are innovative, feasible, and have the potential to improve economic security for this target population. The application process will include a day-long facilitated discussion to provide potential applicants with basic information about Social Security and related benefits, as well as relevant research findings about the income needs of the target population. Applicants will also have the chance to ask questions of, and receive guidance from, experts in the field as needed/relevant.

Advisors/Mentors: For Academy Members only. Sign-up to serve as an advisor/mentor to Challenge applicants. For more information, please contact:
William (Bill) Arnone, Chief Executive Officer, National Academy of Social Insurance
Email warnone@nasi.org or call (202) 452-8097
Phase I: Preparation to submit an abstract (up to 3 pages describing the applicant’s idea)

» Potential applicants will participate in a facilitated discussion (early March 2019) to learn about the nature of the policy issues the Challenge seeks to address and the process for administering the Challenge.

» Applicants will have the opportunity to submit questions to the Academy and answers will be shared with all applicants via this Challenge website.

Deadline to submit an abstract: Friday, March 29, 2019, by 8:00 pm ET

Phase II: Preparation to submit a proposal (up to 10 pages, which provides a more in-depth explanation of the applicant’s idea)

» In early April, applicants whose abstracts are selected to continue to participate in the Challenge will be asked to prepare a proposal. During this phase of the process, applicants will be assigned an adviser to assist with the completion of their proposal.

Deadline to submit a proposal: Friday, May 31, 2019, by 8:00 pm ET

Phase III: Selection of winning proposals

» A panel of judges will identify three-to-five winning proposals and notify successful applicants by Tuesday, June 25, 2019

» The Academy will issue project awards totaling $20,000-$25,000 for each proposal, with the first payment made by Friday, June 28, 2019

Phase IV: Refinement of winning proposals

» Between July - September 2019: The Academy will convene a closed-door roundtable discussion of ideas with award recipients and commenters

» By Thursday, October 31, 2019: Winning applicants will submit revised proposals based on roundtable feedback. The Academy will work with winning applicants to edit and format final proposals for publication. Applicants are required to address any concerns raised by the panel of experts prior to receiving final award payment.

» December 2019: Full public announcement and release of winning proposals.

Questions? Please email Elaine Weiss, Lead Policy Analyst, Income Security, at eweiss@nasi.org, ATTN: 2019 Challenge, or call (202) 452-8097
A panel of judges, consisting of Members of the Academy and other experts, will conduct a blind review of all proposals. This Innovation Challenge is designed to neither replace nor undermine the existing disability insurance (DI) system. The judges will examine each proposal for its impact and potential adverse consequences on staffing, resources and support for the DI system and its recipients. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria and metrics:
  • Innovative in approach
  • Evidence-based
  • Feasible
  • Cost-effective
  • Focused on public policies at the federal level
  • Actionable for use by federal policymakers over a reasonable timeline, as part of a package of future Social Security changes
  • Insightful into the needs and experiences of the target population
  • Incorporates existing policy and related research
  • Demonstrates understanding of, and relationship with, current Social Security benefits, especially retirement and disability insurance
  • Estimates the number of individuals affected and the potential impact
  • Addresses the potential cost and impact on Social Security’s long-range financing
  • Does not adversely impact the existing DI system
CONTACT: Elaine Weiss, eweiss@nasi.org, or call (202) 452-8097

Two reprise discussions will be available before the March 29 abstract deadline:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET
Thursday March 21, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

The purpose of this facilitated discussion is to inform potential applicants about the nature of the policy issues the Challenge seeks to address and the process for administering the Challenge. The facilitated discussion event will:
  • Explain the entire Challenge process and timeline
  • Foster an atmosphere of collaboration
  • Focus potential applicants on developing creative yet actionable ideas that might actually be used by federal policymakers as part of a package of future Social Security reform efforts
  • Provide all potential applicants with a workable understanding of the current Social Security system, including its history and evolution over time
This facilitated discussion is intended especially for interested applicants who do not have extensive experience with the Social Security programs. So even if you’re not yet sure if you want to compete, consider attending! (This event is free and open to the public, so even if you don’t think you want to apply, feel free to participate.)

Regardless of your level of expertise, if you intend to compete in the Challenge, participation in this facilitated discussion on March 5th OR one of the reprise sessions is required. If you were unable to participate in-person or via livestream on March 5th, two reprise sessions will be available on March 13, 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and March 21, 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Participants will include retirement policy experts from a variety of relevant academic disciplines and from policy development organizations, and advocates for low-income individuals, and for older workers, people with disabilities, and workers in labor-intensive fields.

By attending this event, potential applicants will be able to increase their understanding of current Social Security policy – including retirement claiming ages, spousal and survivor benefits, disability benefits, and work rules.


9:00 am: Registration, Coffee and Networking
  • Participants joining via livestream will have a moderated “table” to facilitate introductions and networking
9:30 am: Opening and Welcome Remarks by Challenge Organizers

9:45 am: Part I. The Challenge: Goals and Process

10:30 am: Part II. Understanding the Target Population
  • Presentations by expert speakers
11:30 am: Break for Table Discussions and Networking
  • Participants via livestream will have a moderated “table” to facilitate networking and discussion with other online participants
Noon: Social Security Basics
  • Presentations by expert speakers
  • Lunch available for in-person attendees
1:30 pm: Open discussion/Q&A

1:55 pm: Wrap-up

2:00 pm: Event concludes

Updated 3-26-19
Resources from March 5 Facilitated Discussion

Speaker Presentations

Additional Resources
Q & A Related to the Challenge Process
Thank you for participating in this Challenge. Please refer to the RFP for detailed submission instructions. Download the abstract submission template.

The abstract submission period has closed.