Celebrating Sixty Years of Social Security Disability Insurance

August 1, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: August 19, 2021

60th disabilityWhen President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, he saw it as an innovative way to provide economic security for American workers. His advisers also envisioned disability insurance as part of the program, but it was 20 years later when it became a reality.

Today we celebrate this important milestone: 60 years ago, the Social Security Amendments of 1956 established disability insurance as part of Social Security. In the years since then, the disability program has adapted to keep pace with our changing world. For 60 years, Social Security has protected workers and their families in the event of a severe disability.

The disability program provides a critical lifeline to workers and families who lose their income due to the onset of severe, long-term disabilities. Today, about nine million disabled workers and two million of their dependents receive disability benefits from Social Security. Visit our Faces and Facts of Disability page to learn more. Here you can also watch engaging videos and read personal stories from people who rely on this earned benefit.

Social Security is our nation’s most effective poverty prevention program, and disability insurance is a key piece of that. Although the benefits are modest (less than $1,200 per month on average), these payments are the main source of income for most people who receive them. Among disabled workers, 4 out of 5 beneficiaries rely on these benefits for at least half of their income; for more than a third of beneficiaries, it is their only source of income. Social Security disability benefits lift 3 million people out of poverty each year.

To commemorate this milestone, we will host a series of articles about the Social Security disability program on our blog in the coming months. We’ll hear from beneficiaries, historians, stakeholders, and disability experts as they reflect on the program’s history and importance.

I invite you to reflect on the significance of Social Security Disability Insurance in your own life, or in the lives of your loved ones. You can join this conversation by adding your comments below.

We celebrate a very successful first 60 years of the Social Security Disability Insurance program, and look forward to the next 60 and beyond as it continues to protect workers and their families.  Whether at birth or in old age, upon the death of a loved one, or in case of disability, Social Security is with you through life’s journey!

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About the Author

Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

Acting Commissioner of Social Security (February 14, 2013 - January 20, 2017)


  1. Michael

    Apologies for the typo in my previous comment. “we remain ever grateful….”

  2. Mary H.

    After working for 40 years, I woke up one morning so sick I had to be taken to the hospital. Little did I know I would never he able to work again. I applied for Disability and my worker was very helpful and understanding. I appreciate her for all her hard work. Happy Birthday and may God bless every worker that helps people at one of the hardest times of our lives.

  3. Michael

    My family benefited from this benefit and we remaing ever grateful to FDR, Social Security & the Congress who passed this much needed benefit to those disabled and their families. Kudos to all involved!

  4. Donna

    My husband collects SS Disability now. When he turns 65, can he collect based on my social security even though I am younger?

    • John O.

      He receives as much as he ever will on his own record. If you were a higher wage earner he might be able to draw a reduced spouse’s benefit when you are entitled. Most of the time that will not work out financially.

  5. anne B.

    As needs to change the way they calculate the COLA and include cost of food, gas,
    rent/mortgage, medical,etc because all, of this has skyrocketed and no COLA for 2016. We definitely need an increase for 2017 of 6% or more. Take it from the politician’s who have taken from SS funds unlawfully.

    • Nancy H.

      I totally agree with you ! They say because the price of gas dropped was the reason for no COLA. Gas is the least of senior citizens,groceries and,utilities and other everyday expenses are rising everyday!

    • Tiger

      Unfortunately that is not even in the ballpark. At the end of August we were looking at a .2% COLA (2/10 of 1%) for 2017. COLA is calculated using the average of July, August, & September, to be released October 16th.

  6. Jarita D.

    Happy 60th Anniversary Social Security Disability Insurance! Thank you so very much for being created and helping me and my family when I became disabled. The system works and has been a blessing to us. Again, many thanks!

    • Chas S.

      i agree with Jarita, Happy Birthday SSD. If not for SS I dont know what I would have done..I paid in for many years and it has been a blessing..thank you and lets all hope that the elected save this necessary benefit.

  7. Monique C.

    It stops because after 65 it goes to straight social security.

  8. Dina P.

    About how many people are injured workers who are on SSDI?

  9. gregory j.

    Applying for ss disability has been the worst experience of my lifetime no one wants to help quite the opposite they want to hurt the disabled it is shameful

    • L. M.

      Sorry that you have suffered, it is so difficult and trying when you have a disability. There are many skilled attorneys who specialize in Social Security Disability and would love to help you out and guide you through the process. Look in your local phone book or online in your town to find one. Good luck and God bless. 🙂

      • LYNDA

        Attorney was no help…still denied after waiting 2 years. This system rarely works. Why do you think we have so many homelesd?

    • Rick N.

      I found just the opposite; I applied for SSD in October and I was approved in February. I completed all my documents and supplied the supporting documents, I received 2 separate calls from Social Security, one from D.C. and then one from my regional office, I added a few more documents and that was it. I’m so appreciative of SSD because without that I wouldn’t be able to stay in my home or live my life in a modest lifestyle.

      • Ellen a.

        I agree. Although it took 2.5 years, most do the time SS employees were so helpful. In fact one of them hearing I was paper work wise, suggested I do it myself and not hire an attorney. I followed his advice, it was a lot of work, but I successfully handled the claim myself.
        I had some very nice and helpful people when I contacted them.

      • C.E. S.

        Glad to hear it was so easy for many. It took 3 denials and 2.5 years to get approved. All the while my small retirement & savings totally drained due to hospitalizations, Drs & surgeries. I had been diagnosed with a rare liver disease and only had 25% left. I still have problems with Medicare refusing to pay for vital tests to follow the progression of this condition. Since the Government has pilfered Millions of $’s, we should all be praying for an overhaul with less corruption.

      • Elizabeth Z.

        I applied for Disability in May and was approved in July no attorneys needed all the proof was in my Doctors reports I supplied all paper work needed. that was in 2006 now I am on Social Security regular and if it was not for Disability I don’t know what I would have done and all the case workers was super and so much help Thankyou

        • Jenna Y.

          Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth! Social Security is committed to providing world-class customer service today and in the years to come.

      • Tiger

        True, it was a very smooth process for my husband. You have to provide everything they ask for as they ask for it. Use a disability attorney, even though you have to fill out the huge stack of paperwork, they take care of getting it file and keeping things moving..

    • John O.

      Yours is an exception to the rule and no one, much less SS employees want to hurt the disabled, quite the opposite.

    • Joseph

      Attourneys specialize in Social Security / ssi , ssd law. They only receive modest token payment for their help in the application process after you receive approval , @ 400 usd.
      The majority of people who apply without an attorney’s guidance are automatically rejected the 1st time they apply. This is a hardball open secret. Many will expire in the interim.

      The important point is that you must continue seeking medical treatment, to document onset and seriousness of your disability. This will be very difficult and painful to do if you are alone, have no family, or have a disability which affects your brain (as I do).

      • Jeff

        “Modest token payment @ 400 usd”

        UMMM NOPE JOE! Wrong! See https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203940003

        The fee agreement for an attorney is 25% of the back pay but not to exceed $6,000…..

        For example is someone won a disability case and had $71,000 in back pay coming to them, the attorney would get $6,000…..

        Now on the other hand, most SSI back pays are in the $5,000 range, so an attorney would receive $1,250 or 25% of the back pay…..

        On both of these 60 years of disability threads II see a RIDICULOUS amount of not only incorrect but DEAD WRONG answers!

        This isn’t just aimed at you but I correct people on both of these threads who are giving out WRONG information and NOT ONE comes back to respond to me….

        It’s like you people just troll leaving these absurd comments and when you’re corrected you don’t even come back to say “oh, my bad, I was wrong, you are right” BUT they continue to leave straight up NONSENSE all over these threads!

        Here is a hint, get a clue before you start to give people information….

    • mk

      There are state legal representatives who may be able to help you without charging a fee. Check your state offices near you or even call your local SSA office for that information.

    • Connie C.

      I agree Gregory. My niece applied for disability and it took her 8 years to be declared disabled and get help. She had 3 different lawyers through the whole process. She has a mental disability. However, I know many people who had no problem at all getting disability and in a timely manner. The thing they had in common was their disability was with their backs. Makes ya wonder.

  10. ken g.

    why when i turn 66 the disability stop when i am still disable? i still can’t work.

    • Deborah S.

      At age 66 your disability will convert to the ‘regular’ retirement category and the amount you receive for disability will transfer to your updated status of ‘retired.’

      • Tom

        The law created disability 20 years after the fact for people who could not work until their full retirement age. It is a bridge of sorts to carry you up to but not past the age you would receive your full retirement amount.

        • Denise

          My husband worked for the city of Dallas for 34 years, he retired there drawing a pension…after retirement from the city of Dallas, he had planned on working elsewhere for several more years, just to supplement our income, in the meantime he had a stroke which now he is unable to work…I have discovered that since he never put into social security, he’s not eligible for disability! Working for the city a portion of his income went towards his pension, not towards social security. There is something wrong with the system when you have a person who has worked hard all their life, and at the age of 58 would be working somewhere if not for his stroke, yet he’s not eligible to draw disability. This is not fair, and it’s not right!

          • David

            Would it be more fair to be eligible for something a person didn’t pay into? The people that receive disability worked and paid Social Security taxes. That’s why they can receive it.

          • Diane W.

            There IS information available at no cost. Your husband’s employer could have AND would have provided it had your husband posed the question(s). When in doubt ASK THE QUESTIONS(S)

      • Ana M.

        Do you mean she will be retired plus the disability benefits she had right now. ? I think is fine because with the Social Security is not enough money to live.

        • Joanie

          No, there will be no addition funds. The amount of margin ney will be the same.

      • Patricia P.

        That’s my question also. But how does someone know you still are disabled and why did I get taken off Special Needs when my income hasn’t gone up? If anything they now charge me for having prescription coverage when that should be taken care of by my Extra Help status. So what’s going on? I’ve been on the phone for months and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. I’m very frustrated. Sincerely, Pat Pryor

    • John O.

      Your benefit amount remains the same, what you receive comes out of a different trust fund.

      • Vernon L.

        What about money’s added in the last 6 yrs

        • mk

          Please specify- are you referring from age 60 to 66?

    • Joanie

      It should not stop, it should only convert to social security retirement.

    • mk

      Your benefit amount will continue to stay the same except for increase in cost of living allowances. The only difference is your disability benefit will no longer be paid from a disability fund but from the retirement fund.

      • Christina O.

        The cost of living has not gone for 2016 because of gas prices are too low but if the person who wants to get medicine has to pay $80 or more. SSA does not count medicine, housing, or electric bills, etc.

        • Kenny O.

          Cristina, contrary to many belief, SSA does not set the cost of living (COLA). The government measures changes in the cost of living through the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W).

          The CPI has not risen since the last cost-of-living adjustment in 2015. As a result, your benefit rate and, for most people, Social Security benefit amount stays the same in 2016. For additional information about the 2016 COLA, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

    • Jeff

      If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI), nothing will change when you reach full retirement age except for Social Security purposes your benefits will be called retirement benefits instead of disability benefits.

      The SSDI benefit that is paid is the maximum amount payable to the worker under his or her earnings record. It is higher than the benefit payment that would be paid for reduced retirement benefits. Therefore, if you are receiving SSDI, your benefit amount will not change when you reach full retirement age.

      Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you will get your benefits with no limit on your earnings.

      Information about full retirement age may be found on our Web site at the following Internet address:


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