For Immediate Release | February 7, 2019


Elaine Weiss, (202) 243-7280 or

Washington, DC – The National Academy of Social Insurance is seeking innovative ideas to address the income adequacy needs of older workers who must claim Social Security retirement benefits early, due to ill health, an inability to continue to perform physically demanding jobs, or other factors. The Academy, in collaboration with AARP, has launched a Social Security Policy Innovations Challenge open to applicants across the country and from a variety of disciplines. (Visit the Academy’s website for more information about the Challenge.)

Most beneficiaries rely on Social Security benefits as their principal or only source of income in retirement. Under the current Social Security benefit structure, early claimants receive substantially reduced monthly benefits throughout their lifetimes. The average retirement benefit is only slightly above the federal poverty level for income.

“Our goal is to find problem-solvers who are concerned about older workers who are unable to secure jobs that pay enough to live decently and save for retirement,” said William Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance. “Participation in this Challenge is an opportunity to find much-needed solutions for those not eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and at high risk of falling into poverty.”

A panel of judges, consisting primarily of Members of the Academy as well as other experts, will conduct a blind review of all proposals based on a set of evaluation criteria (learn more). Challenge judges will also examine the proposals to ensure that they do not adversely impact the existing SSDI system and its recipients.

“We believe that good ideas that have undergone rigorous factual analysis can drive better policymaking,” said AARP Chief Public Policy Officer Debra Whitman. “This Challenge serves as an opportunity to foster the kinds of innovative ideas that will challenge outdated beliefs and make this vital program stronger for future generations. We are excited to collaborate with the National Academy of Social Insurance and its membership of experts to discover new ways to protect vulnerable workers and retirees.”

Experts are encouraged to apply, but expertise in Social Security policy is not a requirement for participation in the Challenge. The Academy will work with applicants to develop policy ideas that are innovative, feasible, and have the potential to improve economic security for workers with limited employment opportunities, who lack the financial security to postpone claiming Social Security benefits until they reach full retirement age. The application process will include an opportunity for applicants to learn more about Social Security and related benefits, as well as relevant research findings about the income needs of this target population. Each winning proposal will receive an award of up to $20,000-$25,000.

About the National Academy of Social Insurance

Since the Academy was founded in 1986, it has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Now comprised of over 1,000 of the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs, the Academy studies how social insurance can continue to meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers. The Academy also looks at new frontiers for social insurance, including areas of uninsured or underinsured economic risks and related policies. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter. 

About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.


The National Academy of Social Insurance is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to advance solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security.

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