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. Anita B.

    On March 29, 2018, I applied for medical disability because I can not see anything through my left eye and was instantly denied. I was working at that time and was earning over the poverty line. Recently, I was laid off from work because of absences due to surgeries from my left eye, still can not see anything from left eye. I need to appeal my case and in need of legal help to guide my case. Please, anybody who can help will be appreciated.

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  3. dogan

    This my blog and social account list control pls and visit


  4. cliff m.

    24 Apr, 2015, my son,age 41, was in auto accident, where the driver dead at scene.
    my son was air lifted over 70 mi.,where he had multiple surgeries : broke both shoulders, both hips, both femers, right
    arm, bone thr skin above hand, broke right hand, right foot, cracked pelvis in (3) places.UAB
    at Birmingham,AL performed surgeries. we
    went through (2) appeals at SSA . Now waiting on administrative law judge hearing . he can barely dress himself, and this waiting has been going on over a year.
    my son is having to depend on me for support ; I am a veteran, non-service
    connected disabled, receiving $1132.00
    The owner of vehicle in wreck didn’t have
    lnsurance, my son was in between jobs, no
    insurance, and would be homeless now,if not for me. what I want to know, if this was
    YOU or ME, would we still be treated this way? This is NOT the only case that I personally know of. Now SSA said it may be months before they have an appointmentwith an ALJ . Could this be ploy to force me to hire an attorney ? Close to being HOMELESS, while SSA employee’s sit at desks, earning $45000. TO $80,OOO YR,as i collect $14,500. per yr.
    while helping my son with power and water !!!9 SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE WITH THE WAY SSA HANDLES CASES.

  5. Ridley F.

    Social security sounds like a great thing for a lot of people. It’s astounding that around 9 million people get the social security benefits! I had no idea that was so widespread. I am glad that the government came up with this 60 years ago. http://www.diamondlaw.net/social-security

  6. Irma

    I have a slight disability and has been diagnosed and documented. With having a righteous disability, can I get assistance with housing, financial assistance educational wise and financial for living expeses?

    • R.F.

      To see if you are eligible to receive social services or other benefits from the state in which you live, contact your local social services office. Or you can visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information.

  7. Breanne

    Question, i was born at birth with a slight disability and I attend college, but it is took me a long time to graduate, like 10 years from a junior college.? i know want to transfer to a University, is there any benefits that I can get to assist me with my eduation.

    And the other question is, I work for 1 week or 2, then I get released, they never tell me why, but I believe it is because of my disability. I could never hold a job with my disability. Can I apply for social security disability benefits. My disability is documneted with all my dignosises.

    What kind of assistance is out there for me financial and education wise. As the county will not assist me at all.

    • R.F.

      Thank you for your comment, Breanne. The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition for disability. 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. However, if a person thinks that he or she meets our definition of disability, we encourage them to apply for disability benefits when they become disabled. A person may still be eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program if they work. However, their earnings cannot exceed a certain amount. This is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. In 2016, the SGA limit is $1,130 per month (or $1,820 for blind applicants). In addition to the amount of money you make, Social Security may also look at the number of hours you’re able to work. For more information visit our “Frequently Asked Questions” web page on disability. We hope this information helps.

  8. oliver b.

    I don’t work at all

  9. oliver b.

  10. Tony S.

    Social Security Amendments of January 1, 2016 http://www.title24uscode.org/ss1.htm

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