For Immediate Release | February 22, 2021


Elaine Weiss, 202-243-7280

The National Academy of Social Insurance has launched a new Task Force to identify and assess options for improving retirement security for older workers who are either in physically demanding jobs, facing health challenges, or both, but who do not currently qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

“Long before COVID-19, millions of older workers were in real trouble,” said Elaine Weiss, Director of Policy at the National Academy of Social Insurance. “But too little has been done to address the grim reality facing many people in their 50s and 60s who work in occupations that they can no longer perform, but cannot afford to retire early.”

The Academy’s new Task Force is comprised of 12 experts on Social Security benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance, retirement security, and disability policy. (See below for the full list.) The Task Force will also leverage the broader expertise of the Academy’s membership, which includes over 1,100 experts in other social insurance programs, such as Medicare, Workers’ Compensation, and Unemployment Insurance.

“Having worked for decades on issues related to retirement security and the government’s role in supporting it, I look forward to collaborating with this group to strengthen a key aspect of our social insurance infrastructure,” said Barbara Bovbjerg, Task Force Chair and former Managing Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues at the Government Accountability Office. “Major shifts in the labor force in recent decades, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, make this an especially critical time for this initiative.”

The Task Force expects to issue a full report in the fall – winter of 2021. The report will document current challenges, including the impact of COVID-19, and provide policy options to improve support for older workers, through expansion of the SSDI program and/or new program(s) modeled to some extent on DI.

“We are delighted to continue partnering with the Academy to identify effective strategies to support older workers who can no longer continue in jobs that are physically demanding or because their health has declined,” said Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer at AARP. “This Task Force brings together the range of perspectives and expertise needed for this important task.”

The work of the Task Force builds on a 2019 Social Security policy innovations challenge that the Academy hosted in partnership with AARP. The challenge yielded four complementary policy proposals to address the economic insecurity experienced by 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 related factors.


Members of the Task Force on Older Workers:

Barbara Bovbjerg, Task Force Chair and former Managing Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office

Lowell Arye, President, Aging and Disability Policy and Leadership Consulting

Stacy Cloyd, Director of Policy and Administrative Advocacy, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives

Eva Dominguez, Legislative Representative, Alliance for Retired Americans

Joel Eskovitz, Director, Social Security and Savings, AARP Public Policy Institute

Constance Garner, Senior Policy Director, Foley Hoag, LLP

Alaine Perry, former senior advisor on disability and special needs populations, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Ken Sokol, Financial Planner

Rusty Toler, Senior Fellow, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement

Rebecca Vallas, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress

Jamie Wilson, Center of Behavioral Health Quality and Statistics, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

Bethany Lilly, Senior Director of Income Policy, The Arc of the United States

Since the National Academy of Social Insurance 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. Comprised of over 1,100 Members – 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, including uninsured or underinsured economic risks. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter.

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