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. tammy

    Sixty years of fraud and deception, wow! Why dont you do a blog on Being physically disabled, marrying an “able bodied person” and loosing out on a lifetime of benefits, all because you married an “able bodied person”?

    Because you are physically disabled (adult disabled child) and you choose not to marry another adult disabled child or disabled person drawing off socialist security, you WILL LOOSE ANY AND ALL BENEFITS FOR LIFE. This means that the SOCIALIST SECURITY system is TELLING YOU WHO YOU ARE ALLOWED TO MARRY and who you are
    NOT ALLOWED TO MARRY! It is a discriminatory act “rule” and should be ILLEGAL!

    Even though I am permanently and totally disabled, if I marry an “able bodied person”, somehow that marriage makes everything ok and I am no longer considered disabled (in the eyes of the socialist security system). Magically (because I married an able bodied person), the pixie fairies come down and cure my disability, because now I can just go out and find gainful employment, no one will discriminate against my physical disability and everything will be grand, right? Somehow magically, marrying an able bodied person makes my physical disablility dissappear and now I am cured, right? WRONG!

    The issue is a special “Rule” that the Socialist Security System uses to discriminate against “certain” people. If you are a “physically disabled person” (AKA-certain people) and happen to marry an able bodied person, then the SOCIALIST SECURITY system will use special “Rules” to legally discriminate against you and deny you benefits, even if you appeal online.

    The SOCIALIST SECURITY system has caused me a lot of economic hardship all because I married an able bodied person. The SOCIALIST SECURITY system thinks someone who is physically disabled (permanently and totally disabled) marries an “able bodied person”, that somehow magically they are cured of their physical disability and two people can survive off the able bodied persons income. WOW, talk about a bunch of bureaucratic idiotic thinking, that somehow this would not cause a financial hardship….. amazing.

    The rules that the Social Security Administration uses to legally discriminate against persons who are “Adult Disabled Children” who happen to marry an able bodied person, are discriminatory. This is loosely referred to as the “marriage penalty” but I call it exactly what it is, a legal form of discrimination.
    I firmly believe this rule, is an act of bias, prejudice and discrimination against people who (by no fault of their own) are born disabled and happen to marry an able bodied person

    Please write your Congressional Representative and tell them to end this modern day form of Legal Discrimination. In this day of fairness and equality, there are still some people suffering from an outdated and oppressive bureaucratic rule.

    (PS. notice how the only thing any of these SOCIALIST SECURITY workers ever say are quotes of the rules or processes, like a worker drone. They are unable to address any topics that fall outside of their rule books). Typical bureaucracy and bureaucratic responses, like trying to argue over lost change with a vending machine!

  2. Martha S.

    Every American needs to know that SS is a Ponzi scheme because there is NO money in that fund!
    Every dollar the federal government spends just makes the National Debt higher!!
    And it is over 19 TRILLION now!!!
    $19,388,409,851,764.47 this morning.
    Increasing about $2.36 billion per day.
    The estimated population of the United States is 323,510,624.
    Each citizen’s share of this debt is $59,931.29.

  3. Jac

    Thank you for this article. I really like what you said about the social security being the best poverty prevention program. It’s true, without it my grandparents would be broke, and living with me! Also when you get in a jam, having someone to fight for you is really important. Thanks again!

  4. P W.

    I believe someone in a prior post, mentioned that SS was not suppose to be your only means of income and that it was set up to be an aide in later years. However, from the conversation, it appears that some are totally dependent upon the resources of SS and are concerned about their survival. I believe we would not be posting such comments if everyone pulled their weight when contributing to the fund in that there are thousands who did not work to contribute, yet benefits from the SSI fund in their later years or perhaps due to circumstances beyond their control. It behooves us to be patient with our conversation as it seemingly contains a disdain toward the less fortunate. Hopefully, SS will be around well into the future if we treat it for what it was set up to be.

    • irene P.

      I guess that depends on the career you select. I was in public service for 50 years in a field that required a masters degree as a minimum requirement. It is a field dominated by females and was always totally undervalued and paid. I started my family late and my children were in college when I entered retirement. It was impossible to save as I result I live on a very fixed income while costs are escalating because the measures used to calculate cola do not apply to my age group. Changes need to be made there. There are also some problems with the SS program that need to be addressed–like paying benefits to someone who has never contributed–which is a big reason why the fund is being depleted. Why should the husband or wife of someone who has never contributed collect half of their partner’s benefits?n Yet those who are single dont get that benefit? That does not make sense to me. No work, no payment. With todays multiple partnerships, it becomes complex and meaningless to pay benefits to someone who has never contributed.

  5. dody

    thanks for the article, I became interested in insurance


  6. Robert

    I applied in Feb and received payments 3 months later. Never would i have thought to become disabled. All my documentation was in order for review at the time making the process smooth and efficient. Thankyou for the service . Its is a valued program once the lifestyle change occurs.

    • Ray F.

      -Thank you for sharing! We’re pleased we can help.

  7. JOE




    • tony

      You forgot the decimal point. It is 0.2% if we are lucky.

      The Social Security ponzi scheme will go broke in 2034. They already estimated our COLA for the next 18 years.

      Social Security was going broke when they gave out the high Cola raise from 1975 to 1982.



      The Democrats will try to give out bigger COLA raise and bankrupt Social Security before 2034.

      They will try to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, costing people to lose their job. $15/hour will cause inflation and the cost of living will go up bankrupting Social Security before 2034.

      They won’t be able to bail out Social Security because the US will have a $50 trillion debt and no one will let the US borrow any more money.

      The US budget is so tight now, that they can’t even bail out Puerto Rico $75 billion debt. Government spending there is just as bad as the US, but the US can still borrow more money while creditors put a stop to Puerto Rico.

    • irene P.

      Politicians need to be covered by ss just as we are. They hold an office for 2 or 4 years and get a pension for life and a medical coverage package the likes of which most of us never see….. We all need to bombard their offices with this request so they understand our plight and feel cuts, increases in costs the way we do on a fixed income. Oh but they are usually part of the 1% and never feel what we feel…..

  8. Judy D.

    I know far too many people without a “severe” disability collecting benefits and just as many with, what I consider as severe disabilities, who are refused benefits. What do you consider a “severe” disability? Apparently the governments definition and mine are not the same.

    • Former F.

      The law defines a disabling condition as one which has, or can be expected to prevent someone from performing “substantial gainful work” (currently $1130 per calendar month) for a period of at least 12 months, or which is expected to end in death. Some conditions automatically qualify for disability after a verified diagnosis; other conditions require meeting an “impairment severity” test.

      Some disability beneficiaries improve after being approved for benefits. Since most of those do not report such improvement, the only ways SSA becomes aware of it is either when the beneficiary returns to work or when SSA conducts a medical review of the case, which is required by law at least once every seven years, or more often depending on the diagnosis and the severity.

      If you observe someone performing strenuous physical activity on a regular basis or working while disabled, you can report that to SSA directly or to their fraud unit for investigation; provide as many specific facts as possible about the activity. That is how many of the real fraudsters get caught, and I was personally
      aware of a number of such cases when I worked in just one local field office, SSA is not the FBI, and does not have the resources to follow every disability recipient around without reason to suspect that individual of committing fraud, so the public needs to do its part and provide detailed information, which SSA would not otherwise receive about such activity.

      • irene P.

        I thought that someone who is a nurse and hurt their back in working with patients can qualify for ssdi but is free to work another job, say real estate, which does not require strenuous lifting? is this true?

        • Cjnelsen

          If they work making more than the level of Substantial Gainful Employment for more than 9 months their benefits can be reduced or terminated. I am floored that having 2 back surgeries, degenerative disc disease, spondylothesis, migraines, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction don’t qualify, but A.D.D. does. If you are receiving benefits and working, you need to get in contact with an employment counselor (you can ask your local office for the contact information) so you don’t lose the benefits during your trial work period.

      • Tony S.

        Fraud is a crime of theft, theft is a crime of violence in Jain theology, and it is the disability determiner in these cases that is the thief This may be why you no longer work for SSA. You can’t deprive the people of their subsistence under common article 1 of two conventions I don’t feel like looking up right now for an offender, without becoming yourself destitute. You can experiment yourself by denying a beggar and then blaming that for your bad luck.

    • tony

      It is so easy to get that free disability money if you can understand the way the system works for the fraudsters.

      “Severe” will only get you past Step 2 of the disability process. It is very easy for everyone to get pass Step 2.

      • S T.

        Since disability claims require medical records to document the disabling condition, it is hardly easy to get disability benefits! Just ask anyone with a condition that is not a listed impairment…

    • Jenna Y.

      Hello Judy. You may find our listing of impairments useful. The Social Security Act sets out a very strict definition of disability, much different than the requirements for other government programs. We pay disability benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability. To learn more about the process we use to decide if you are disabled under our rules, visit our Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled. Hope this helps.

    • tony

      Remember that this system was made to get fraudsters approved with subjective evidence for back pain, mental illness, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc.

      Your condition doesn’t have to be on the listing of impairments. Your condition can meet or equal the listing at Step 3.

      Even if it doesn’t meet or equal the listing, you proceed to Step 4.

      Lazy freeloaders people who never work a day in their life can skip Step 4 and go to Step 5.

      The working class have to prove that they cannot do there previous work or they will be denied at Step 4 and cannot reach Step 5.

      The system was made for lazy freeloading fraudsters.

      Once you get to Step 5, they take into account your age, education, and work experience.

      Because you worked hard and got yourself an education, you might get denied. The lazy freeloaders with no work experience and education have a better chance than you.

      • irene P.

        Can you collect ssdi if you have never contributed to ss?

        • Kenny O.

          Great question Irene. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability. For more information on this topic, please see: Social Security Protection If You Become Disabled

  9. Marcie

    I’ve had to hire a Attorney to help me since I broke my back in August 2015, had surgery in April 2016 and the surgeon paralyzed me completely from the waist down. I’m only 47 and my situation has devastated my family, and I’m now unable to pay my rent and utilities and have no help from any family, yet SSDI denied my first claim. Doctors have said that there is no chance of me ever going back to work again in my lifetime. My ex got approved on 1st try and in less than 4 months. I’ve been waiting since August. My Attorney has filed Appeal. The government likes to borrow out of funds that we worked for, but when we need it, we can’t get what we paid into. People with headaches get SSI, hell, I have migraines my entire life and I don’t qualify for some unknown reason. Examiners have a paycheck to pay for a roof over their head, so why should they care about us? The system is broken.

    • tony

      The free disability money I get is great. Social Security is supposed to got broke in 2034. We can get 100% of our benefits now if we go on Social Security disability now. Why let these disability fraudsters take all of our money. They say half the people gets mad about the disability fraudsters and the other half goes and applies for disability.

    • Tony S.

      I’ve been hearing about a lot of botched surgeries lately. Although you may have contributed to the system when a person is denied for disability they should apply for SSI. Furthermore, they may be keeping it secret that it is in your best interest to file for SSI because Medicaid pays the medical bills you can’t run from.

      • Tiger

        You have to meet the same disability requirements for both programs. SSI is for people that haven’t worked long enough to qualify for SSDI, and you have to meet the low income and asset requirements. SSDI is not affected by your assets, as you worked and paid into it.

  10. C.E. S.

    I left a comment…..amazing how it didn’t appear. Maybe because I’m not “singing their praises”.

Comments are closed.