Request for Proposals to Reform SSA System, Funding Opportunity
Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
The NCD is looking for an individual or an entity who is willing to undertake a project to analyze the various options for SSI and SSDI reform.
Main DigestThe National Council on Disability (NCD) is a federal agency charged with making recommendations to both Congress and the Administration on issues, policies, and laws which affect people with disabilities.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide a growing number of people with disabilities with a vital safety net. The SSDI program pays cash benefits to eligible workers with disabilities and their family members after a five month waiting period.
SSDI benefits currently average $1,076 per month. The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that nearly half of the families receiving SSDI benefits depend upon the program for most of their income. Some people on SSDI who meet asset and income limitations, or who have extraordinary medical expenses, also receive SSI.
Growing Issues with SSDI and Medicare
After waiting for two years, the majority of people who receive SSDI are also eligible to receive Medicare. On average, every disability benefit award is valued at $250,000 in SSDI and Medicare benefits over a person's lifetime. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) states that between the years of 1970 and 2009, the numbers of people receiving disability benefits more than tripled - from 2.7 million people to 9.7 million.
Despite the growth in disability benefit programs and a number of demonstration initiatives designed to make it easier for people who receive these benefits to return to work, research demonstrates the programs continue to present work disincentives for both applicants and beneficiaries. The programs:
- Erode work capacity
- Foster long-term dependence
- Increase poverty among the very people they are intended to help
Even more - the programs as they currently exist are not financially sustainable. The Social Security Trustees, in the 2012 Annual Report, projected that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be depleted by 2016.
Current policy failings, as well as the need for major structural reforms, have been discussed and documented extensively. Even though repeated calls for reform of Social Security programs have been made by government researchers, scholars, and policymakers - no real modernization of the programs has happened. As an example, the criteria for SSDI/SSI eligibility has not changed in fifty years. In addition, despite major advances in technology, legal protections against discrimination, and workplace accommodations that have made it possible for many people with disabilities to work - complete inability to work is still a criterion for receiving SSDI or SSI.
The importance of the Social Security Disability programs for people with disabilities, as well as the threat to the financial sustainability of the Social Security Trust Fund, bring to light the need for responsible reforms that will ensure the integrity of the programs while preserving the crucial benefits people with disabilities rely upon. The NCD desires to update and build upon its previous work related to these issues, as well as to develop recommendations for the modernization and preservation of the Social Security Disability programs in ways that will optimize work opportunities for people with disabilities who can work while preserving the safety net for those who cannot work.
Desired Project Results
The NCD is looking for an individual or an entity who is willing to undertake a project to analyze the various options for SSI and SSDI reform. It would include measures that could facilitate people who are receiving SSI and SSDI to be able to work, measures that could decrease the likelihood of them needing benefits, as well as what financing options exist to extend the life of both the SSI and SSDI programs. The specific objectives of the analysis are:
- To determine how to substantially increase the number of SSDI/SSI beneficiaries who return to work
- To determine whether there are other strategies to assist beneficiaries in returning to work
- How to better structure benefits when a beneficiary returns to work so as to support the work attempt with a more gradual phase-out of benefits in relation to earnings
The National Council on Disability will generate a platform for the dissemination of findings and recommendations from the project.
The NCD's Suggested Framework for Research
The National Council on Disability (NCD) has a number of questions it is interested in finding answers to. Examples of these questions include the following.
- What would a fundamental restructuring of the SSI and SSDI system require in order to align it with the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)For example; elimination of the requirement that an SSDI applicant declare themselves unable to work to be eligible for benefits, assisting people with disabilities who are at risk of losing their job because they are not receiving reasonable accommodations, or providing job retention supports to people with disabilities who are at risk of losing their job as a result of their disability.
- Extremely diverse populations are served by the SSI and SSDI programs - how might different reform strategies disproportionately impact particular segments of the disability community; either positively or negatively
- Does the Medicaid buy-in opportunity impact work activity, based upon the most current evidence-based research? How should it be modified with the goal of promoting work opportunities for people with disabilities
- The NCD would like to know the extent to which the Ticket-to-Work initiative has been evaluated, as well as what lessons may be drawn from the challenges it has faced in realizing its goals. What reforms to the Ticket-to-Work program might you recommend
- Does research reveal any changes to other federal programs that would positively impact on the health and effectiveness of the Social Security Programs and work opportunities for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries
- Might an incentive mechanism be used to encourage employers to make more efforts to accommodate employees with disabilities as well as to avoid employees with disabilities going on SSDI? For example; an experience rating system where employers, whose employees with disabilities have a lower rate of SSDI retirements, pay lower SSDI payroll taxes
- Could an incentive mechanism be developed to encourage states to supplement the SSI program with state funds
- Might an incentive mechanism be used to encourage employers to offer private disability insurance policies that would supplement the SSDI program
- Are there other changes to the SSI or SSDI programs that would promote work activity while preserving benefits for others who need them and securing the fiscal integrity of the programs
Any successful proposal has to demonstrate knowledge of work in this area, to include the work of NCD, and must propose a plan for building on the organization's existing work with the goal of producing new information while not duplicating work that has already been done. The project through the NCD will culminate in a report to be formatted as a standard NCD report with an executive summary. A final, cohesive report incorporating the findings and conclusions can then be drawn from the examination and include recommendations for reform of the Social Security Disability Programs.
Items to be Delivered as a Result of the Project
The project for the NCD has certain things that must be delivered. The items that must be delivered to the NCD include:
- A detailed preliminary framing paper and outline of the final report
- A revised detailed framing paper and outline of the final report
- An initial draft report incorporating the findings, conclusions, and recommendations that can be drawn from the examination
- A second draft report which will incorporate the findings, conclusions, and recommendations that can be drawn from the examination and incorporating recommended revisions derived from NCD staff, Council members, and external peer reviews
- A final report incorporating recommended revisions derived from NCD staff, Council members, and external peer reviews
The final report to the NCD also needs to document the methodology, findings, and recommendations and has to include a separate section which contains the recommendations - organized according to the entity to which they are directed. Any assertions you make of fact need to be substantiated in your endnotes, presented in the format of the Chicago Style Manual author/title format.
The methodology you use to obtain stakeholder input must allow for open-ended discussions instead of soliciting answers to specific and predetermined questions. You can use data from surveys that already exist, although conducting surveys for the purposes of this study is something that is strongly discouraged. Inclusion of people with disabilities is vital to the planning, development, and execution of this project. Your report should also reflect the NCD's view that the disability community is heterogeneous, with diverse perspectives and needs. These perspectives should be included.
All Materials Should be Delivered to:
Senior Attorney Advisor
National Council on Disability
National Council on Disability
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20004
ATTN: Julie Carroll
How Should the Project be Prepared
The proposal you submit to the NCD must be prepared in two notable parts; a, 'Technical Proposal,' and a, 'Business Proposal.' The parts need to be separate and complete of themselves so evaluation of each one can be accomplished independently of the other. The technical proposal cannot refer to cost, although references to resource information such as data concerning materials, labor hours and categories, subcontracts and so forth have to be contained within the technical proposal so your understanding of the scope of the work can be evaluated. Your technical proposal must disclose the technical approach in enough detail to give a clear and concise presentation which includes; yet is not limited to, the requirements of the technical proposal's instructions.
Proposal's created by an organization have to be signed by an official who is authorized to bind the Applicant's organization. Applicants need to submit an original and one copy of the technical proposal, as well as one copy of the business proposal - to include an e-mailed/electronic file copy of the technical and business proposal.
Applicants can submit alternate proposals to the NCD, or proposals that deviate from the requirements. It is important to note that if you do submit such a proposal, you also need to submit another proposal with it for performance of the work as specified in the statement of work. The proposals might be considered if the overall performance would be improved or not compromised and if they are in the best interest of the government. Alternate proposals have to be clearly identified as such.
Please bear in mind that proposals which merely offer to conduct a program according to the requirements of the government's scope of work are not eligible for award. Applicants need to submit an explanation of their proposed technical approach along with the tasks to be performed to achieve the project objectives. In addition, a detailed work plan needs to be submitted, indicating how every aspect of the statement of work will be accomplished. The technical approach needs to be in as much detail as necessary in order to fully explain your proposed technical approach or method. Your technical proposal needs to reflect a clear understanding of the nature of the work that will be undertaken.
The Technical Proposal
The technical proposal you submit to the NCD must include information on how the project will be organized, staffed, as well as managed. The information you provide should demonstrate your understanding and management of important tasks and events. You also need to explain how management and coordination of consultant and subcontractor efforts will be achieved.
Your technical proposal needs to include a listing of the names and proposed duties of the consultants, professional personnel, and key subcontractor employees who will be assigned to the project. The resumes of these personnel need to be included and should contain the following information on their:
- Recent experience
- Specific requirement related or technical accomplishments
The approximate percentage of time each individual will be available for the project has to be included. The proposed number of staff hours for each of the individuals involved should be allocated against each of the tasks of sub-tasks for the project.
The technical proposal has to provide the qualifications, experience, and general background of the organization. Related or similar contracts, subcontracts, or grants should be included, containing the:
- Dollar amount
- Time of performance
- Name of the customer
- Contract or grant number
- Names and telephone numbers of the contracting officer's technical representative or project officer and contracting/grants officer
The technical proposal you submit must contain a discussion of present or proposed equipment and facilities that will be used in the performance of the contract.
Formatting the Technical Proposal
The proposal must also be prepared and submitted in a specific format. The format the proposal must be prepared and submitted in follows.
Abstract (no more than 2 pages): Your two-page abstract is a summary which provides the proposal contents such as the objectives, activities, and expected outcomes. Your abstract needs to be presented in language that is understandable to an informed layperson, with narrative that is limited to no more than 250 words.
Table of Contents: Your proposal must include a Table of Contents
Introduction (no more than 20 pages): You need to summarize, in your own words, the purposes and objectives of the project in order to demonstrate your complete understanding of the NCD's requirements and intent. In this section, you also need to make a specific statement of any questions, interpretations, limitations, qualifications, exceptions, or deviations to the Solicitation's scope of work and the extent to which your proposal can be expected to meet the requirements set forth in the scope of work.
Procedural Plan (no more than 40 pages): In this section you need to fully describe the theoretical and technical approaches you will employ to comply with each of the tasks in the scope of work. Even though a general statement is appropriate, you should be specific as you describe the manner in which the overall review will be conducted, as well as your intended approach to the design.
Management Plan and Schedule (no more than 15 pages): Your management plan needs to present the feasibility of implementing your resources. You need to present a time chart that specifies the amount of time in person days each staff member will commit to the implementation of every task. Your plan needs to present a clear description of the working relationships between personnel, to include consultants and subcontractors. Your management plan also needs to contain a method for insuring the timely and successful completion of each of the work tasks.
Personnel: In your technical proposal you need to list personnel with major responsibilities by name, title, position, academic background, relevant experience, their responsibilities with the project, and the extent to which their commitment is assured. In this section of the technical proposal, you should include specific time commitments of staff and other projects - both federal and non-federal. Any consultants who have agreed to work on the project need to be identified and assurances of their commitments included. The Project Director needs to be committed for no less than around fifty-percent of the contract. Vitae for all of the main personnel; to include consultants, needs to be appended to the technical proposal. Each curriculum vitae should be limited to not more than two pages and should emphasize the areas of experience directly relevant to the work statement.
Organization Experience: In this section of the technical proposal you need to describe your pertinent experience and qualifications in conducting work of a similar nature. You need to offer evidence of not more than five previous related assignments, to include the names and phone numbers of client project offices who can comment on your performance of the assignments. Your summaries must not exceed one page in length and include related work. Any references to products created as a result of your related activities should also be included.
Resources/Facilities/Equipment: In this section, you need to identify resources other than personnel such as facilities and equipment e.g., library holdings, software, computer hardware - which are available for using in conducting the project. You should address accessibility for people with disabilities.
Current Contractual Obligations: You are required to outline both federal and non-federal contractual obligations that exist during the course of the award for all projects which involve personnel who will be assigned to the project. The organizations or agencies need to be identified by name and the percentage of work time allotted to the projects by personnel committed to the proposed project.
Issues and Associated Data Items: When responding to the tasks and identifying what should receive emphasis - careful consideration needs to be given to issues that are identified, their associated data items, as well as the statement of products desired in your Final Report. All of the information provided by the NCD needs to be returned upon the completion of the analysis and no later than ten working days after the completion of the contract itself. The information cannot be reproduced or released without prior written permission from the NCD.
Rights in Data, Copyright, and Disclosure: All of the final deliverables become the product of the NCD and require acceptance and approval by the organization. The NCD reserves the right to make substantive edits to any final deliverables. The rights to Data, Copyright, and Disclosure include the following:
Data - The term, 'data,' includes written reports such as progress, draft, and final. It includes electronic format and work of any similar nature that is required under any resulting Cooperative Agreement to perform the project. Any data you submit to, and which is accepted by, the NCD under the cooperative Agreement becomes the property of the NCD which shall have the full and unlimited rights to use the data for any purpose and in whatever manner it deems desirable and appropriate, to include making it available to the general public. The NCD's use of the data shall be without any additional payment to the contractor and may be published as the property of the NCD without giving authorship to the contractor. It does not include the Award Recipient's financial reports or other information incidental to contractor administration.
Copyright - You as a contractor relinquish any and all copyrights and/or privileges developed under any Cooperative Agreement. The contractor will not include in the data any copyright matter without the written approval of the NCD unless the contractor provides the NCD with the written permission of the owner of the copyright for the NCD to use.
Disclosure - You as a contractor agree not to divulge or release any information, reports, or recommendations you develop or obtain in connection with the performance of any Cooperative Agreement with the NCD, and not otherwise to the public, without the prior approval of the NCD.
Award Information: The government will make an award to the applicant or applicants whose application conforms with the solicitation and is most advantageous to the government, cost or price, and additional factors considered. In regards to this solicitation, technical quality is more important than cost or price. As proposals become more equal in their technical merit, their evaluated cost or price also become more important. As their technical merit and evaluated cost or price become essentially equivalent, additional factors might become a determining factor. After receiving notification of an intent to award, the Award Recipient can be expected to:
Develop and submit a timeline and deliverables schedule - These will be used to guide performance and monitor the work.
Develop and submit a payment schedule chart - This will be used for payment of the award in installments.
The Award Recipient will also be expected to meet with NCD staff and board members.
Reporting: Throughout the project, the Award Recipient and Contract Officer will be expected to conduct mutually agreed upon monthly teleconference calls and/or bi-weekly meetings as arranged for by NCD staff members. The Contractor will also need to provide monthly electronic progress reports to the NCD's contractor officer. The Award Recipient will need to present to the full Council at a quarterly Council meeting and needs to factor in travel expenses into their project budget.
The Business Proposal
Your business proposal should contain a detailed budget for the project, as well as the certifications and representations required by OMB Circular A-110. For each type of entity there is a set of federal principals for determining allowable costs which need to be determined in accordance with the cost principles that are applicable to the entity which incurs the costs. Proposals will be evaluated using a maximum of one-hundred points which are allocated in the following manner.
A Clear Understanding of the Nature of the Work (20 points): Your proposal must present a clear understanding of the tasks required, as well as the quality, importance, and reliability of the tasks. Your proposal needs to present the rationale/interpretation of the project approach.
Procedural Plan (30 points): Your proposal needs to contain evidence of a fully described technical approached to comply with each of the tasks in the scope of the work. Your proposal must be consistent with the objectives, goals, and compliance requirements. It must be practical in terms of producing needed information, analysis, and recommendations.
Management Plan and Schedule (20 points): Your business proposal must include the degree to which the project team, to include the use of any consultants, is organized, managed, as well as motivated, with the goal of accomplishing effective and efficient implementation of all of the tasks to be completed. The budget in your proposal must be appropriate to the administration of the project. The time frame must be realistic. The schedules and plans must assure smooth cooperation with the NCD staff members who are involved. Your proposal must clearly identify key personnel and include a table showing the number of person-days by the tasks for each of the key personnel.
Personnel (15 points): Your proposal needs to provide evidence of the specific skills and qualifications of consultants and staff members who will be assigned to the project, as well as their experience and familiarity with the topic. It must include relevant laws, regulations, practices and procedures in the federal government. Skills related to writing and conducting research should also be clearly demonstrated.
Organizational Experience (15 points): The degree to which you, as an applicant, and your overall experience and past performance in executing similar projects should be described in your business report. You need to present evidence of related assignments, to include the names and phone numbers of prior project officers who have the ability to comment on your performance of past assignments.
The Project Start Date
The projected start date of the contract is September 3rd, 2012. The first completed draft of the report is due to the NCD by April 1st of 2013. Full proposals need to be submitted by June 18th, 2012. The final draft of the report is due to the NCD by July 30th of 2013.
Formatting Your Proposals and Reports
Your proposal or report must be submitted in electronic Word format or in hard copy. If you use PDF format, your submissions to the NCD have to be created using tools and guidance developed for the creation of accessible PDF's. The document must be professionally edited, and you have to adhere to the NCD's formatting and style standards which follow the Government Printing Office Style Guide.
The very basics of these formatting requirements include text and covers that are printed with the highest contrast possible. Use an Arial 12-point font. If you use italics use them very sparingly - not for full sentences, paragraphs, or recommendations. Do not use small caps. Set your line spacing to 1.5, although appendices, endnotes and so forth should be single spaced. Use 8.5" X 11" paper with a 1" margin on all sides. Use left justification, a block style, and start paragraphs without tabbing in. Text should be in single column format, and use a double space between paragraphs. All documents submitted to the NCD, to include proposals, must be fully accessible to people with disabilities. Graphs and charts must have full text descriptions, shading is not permitted, and electronic copies must be Section 508 compliant.
The Proposal Review Process - Information
Reviews of proposals that are submitted to the NCD are solicited from peers who have expertise in the substantive area of the proposed project. The reviewers are selected from NCD staff members who are charged with the oversight of the review process. Great care is taken to ensure the reviewers have no conflicts with the proposer. Efforts are made to recruit reviewers from non-academic institutions, minority-serving institutions, or adjacent disciplines to address the proposal. Every proposal is carefully reviewed by at least three people outside of the NCD who are experts in the particular field represented by your proposal.
The reviewers will score your proposal in accordance with the technical evaluation criteria described. The NCD staff members who are assigned to manage the proposal's review and select Council members will take into consideration the advice of reviewers and formulate a recommendation. A summary rating and accompanying narrative will be completed and submitted by each of the reviewers. In every instance, reviews are treated as confidential documents.
Information Regarding a Notice of Award
The NCD will notify you by e-mail, telephone, and/or a letter. The notification will begin negotiations for a Cooperative Agreement. Notification does not comprise authorization to begin performance. Notification of the award will be made to the submitting organization by Julie Carrol, NCD Senior Attorney Advisor. Organizations whose proposals are declined will be advised of the fact as quickly as possible by the NCD. Any inquiries concerning the study should be made to: Julie Carrol, Senior Attorney Advisor - 202-272-2019, or email: email@example.com.
Who is Eligible to Apply to Participate in the Project
Any potential applicant is eligible to apply. Cost-sharing is not required. It is important to note that proposals which simply offer to conduct a project in accordance with the requirements of the government's scope of work are not eligible for award. Proposals that do not comply with the NCD's Document Access Requirements will also not be considered for award. The maximum amount available for the project is $150,000.
You can find the application materials at: www.ncd.gov and www.grants.gov. You can also request application materials by writing to:
Senior Attorney Advisor
National Council on Disability
1331 F Street, NW Suite 850
Washington, DC 20004
or by e-mail request: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual
"The Style Manual is the product of many years of public printing experience, and its rules are based on principles of good usage and custom in the printing trade. Essentially, the Style Manual is a standardization device designed to achieve uniform word and type treatment, and aiming for economy of word use."
National Council on Disability
"NCD is a small, independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. NCD is comprised of a team of fifteen Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees, an Executive Director appointed by the Chairman, and eleven, full-time professional staff."
Testing Documents for Section 508 Compliance
"Each time you receive an electronic document, ensure that it is accessible. Use of acquisition language ensures that at least one version will be accessible."
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- 3 - Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability Benefit Payments : Jeffrey A. Rabin & Assoc (2010/06/26)
- 4 - U.S. Social Security Urged to Suspend All Continuing Disability Reviews Due to COVID-19 : United States Senator Sherrod Brown (2020/03/19)
- 5 - Due to COVID-19 Social Security Offices to Provide Phone and Online Services Only : United States Social Security Administration (2020/03/16)
- 6 - Social Security National Slam the Scam Day : U.S. Social Security Administration (2020/03/05)
- 7 - Social Security Removes Inability to Communicate in English as Disability Benefit Factor : U.S. Social Security Administration (2020/02/24)
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