As we continue to reflect on the 60th anniversary of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) this year, it’s worth noting some of the ways the program has evolved over time. A lot has changed since DI started in 1956! We continuously work to ensure our programs keep pace with rapid changes in medical care, healthcare delivery models, assistive technology, and workplace requirements.
- Medical care: Our disability programs have strict eligibility criteria, and beneficiaries must have severe impairments. For many of the most severe impairments, we rely on comprehensive listings of disabling conditions to make our disability decisions. We update the listings periodically to keep pace with advancements in medical care and assistive technologies. This year, we published comprehensive updates to the medical listings for respiratory, neurological, and mental disorders.
- Technology: Medical records are essential for making our disability determinations, and each year we make nearly 15 million requests for records from healthcare providers and organizations to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. Now, participating healthcare organizations send us medical records electronically through health information technology. With electronic records transmission, we can obtain medical records in seconds or minutes. That lets us obtain a claimant’s medical record, review it with the aid of automated decision-support, and make a determination faster than ever before. We currently can receive electronic medical records from about 7,000 healthcare facilities across the country, and are adding new providers and facilities on an ongoing basis.
- Healthcare delivery: Because we rely heavily on medical evidence, we adjust our policies to keep up with changing healthcare delivery models. For example, we’re looking into the types of medical professionals that frequently provide care, and are considering whether telehealth – such as providing healthcare consultations remotely by video – might improve the medical evidence we can gather for certain populations.
- Updating Vocational Information: By law, we consider an applicant to be disabled if their medical condition prevents them from doing any job in the national economy, given the applicant’s age, education, and work experience. That means we need detailed information about the physical and mental requirements of a wide range of occupations in the national economy. We work with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to update this information and keep pace with the changing world of work.
We’re proud to live up to our mission to “deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public.”