In the 1990s, the United States reformed welfare programs targeted on single mothers and dramatically reduced their benefit receipt while increasing their employment and economic wellbeing. Despite increasing calls to do the same for working age people with disabilities in the U.S., disability cash transfer program rolls continue to grow as their employment rates fall and their economic well-being stagnates. In contrast to the failure to reform United States disability
policy, the Netherlands, once considered to have the most out of control disability program among OECD nations, initiated reforms in 2002 that have dramatically reduced their disability cash transfer rolls, while maintaining a strong but less generous social minimum safety net for all those who do not work.
Here we review disability program growth in the United States and the Netherlands, link it to changes in their disability policies and show that while difficult to achieve, fundamental disability reform is possible. We argue that shifts in SSI policies that focus on better integrating working age men and women with disabilities into the work force along the lines of those implemented for single mothers in the 1990s, together with SSDI program changes that better integrate private and public disability insurance programs along the lines of the reforms in the Netherlands, offer the best hope of improving their employment rates and economic well-being as well as reducing SSDI/SSI program growth.