New Rule Modernizes How We Award Disability Benefits

February 24, 2020 • By

Last Updated: February 24, 2020

Documents on office table with pen and digital tablet as work space business concept

The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. A successful disability program must evolve and support making the right decision as early in the process as possible. To help us do that, we must modernize the rules and standards we use to evaluate how we determine disability benefits. We are moving forward with a rule change that has been in the works for a number of years and serves to update a more than 40-year-old policy that made the inability to communicate in English a factor in awarding disability benefits. The new rule is effective April 27, 2020.

We are required to consider education to determine if your medical condition prevents work. In 2015, our Inspector General recommended that we evaluate the appropriateness of this policy. Research now shows the inability to communicate in English is no longer a good measure of a person’s education level or the ability to engage in work. The new rule also supports the Administration’s longstanding focus of recognizing that individuals with disabilities can remain in the workforce.

To make the right disability decisions, Social Security disability rules must continue to reflect current medicine and evolution of work. We need to update our rules to keep up with society’s changes.

We owe it to the American public to ensure that our disability programs continue to reflect the realities of the modern workplace. Please share this information with your family and friends.

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About the Author

Commissioner of Social Security Administration (June 17, 2019 - July 9, 2021)


  1. frances t.

    So the racial discriminatory “English-only” has reached SSA.

    • Dawn

      It’s Not a handicap if you can’t speak english.It’s Not a handicap if you can’t speak russian or spanish or any other language.Get it now???

  2. Elio

    Does this mean that individuals that don’t speak English will not be considered for the disability benefit or is it the contrary?

    • Joe

      It’s neither.

      All they are doing is eliminating one factor, of many, that are used to determine if someone has an intellectual disability.

      Previously they used a person’s ability to communicate in English as factor in those decisions, now they will not. The reason for the change is that studies have shown that the ability to communicate in English is not a good way of determining someone’s intellectual capacity.

      This isn’t changing anything about any requirements to speak English to get disability benefits.

      Don’t make this into a “This is America, speak English” thing. It’s really not.

  3. G.M. A.



    G.M. AMATO

    • Dawn

      Your daughter is on SSI because she doesn’t qualify for SSDI because she hadn’t put in enough work weeks before becoming disabled. SSI is given to your daughter and it’s not a lot of money. There isn’t no way to increase that money unless she was to work.

  4. Chesley P.

    What is the Federal Register citation for this final ruling?

  5. Mel A.

    Who are looking to toughen the rules to help disabled Americans?
    Civil servants or unsympathetic political hacks appointed by uncaring politicians.

  6. Brenda

    My first comment did not publish so I suppose there was too much information.
    My daughter has a hearing deficit and congenital problems. She had been receiving SSI for 14 years and now suddenly they stopped it. Her congenital anomalies will not develop. She also has a child that is 14 years old with special needs. THeir food bill is 500.00 every two weeks and sometimes more because of the special foods because of the diagnosis of fatal food allergies, environmental allergies

    • Trc

      Why are you giving personal information on this blog? You need to really write or call the department to get the right information.

  7. Gary O.

    it seems this is to help pay for the Largest Tax giveaway in American history to Foreign corporations, American corporations and the top 10% of Taxpayers. It has increased our National debt, in trillions of dollars from future Americans, and weakened the fabric of our Nation. All for a transient Administration.

    • Gerry

      They are once again targeting vulnerable for the tax giveaway to the rich. As well as a blank check for the military budget. There are nany who pay into the system mist their lives and now denied callling it entitlements.

      Get out and vote out those currently in office

      • Julia

        I don’t get it, people, who do you think “paying” your disability check? Where do you think money comes from to be sent out every month (especially to people who did not work, or even work, look how much you paid in to the system and how much you are going to get out of it!), it is not growing on trees… rich taxed at high brackets,deductions are limited prior to new tax law all the dependency exemptions and personal were gone (now it is gone al well) for the higher bracket, and you do not have to make millions to pay more than 53% of your paycheck in to the system and owe at the end, if you work for a living you will be taxed, there is income tax there is SS and Medicare tax there is additional Medicare tax if you are a family and your income (what ever source) is more than $250,000. If anything with this new tax law and administration I see a lot of my lower income clients get a better deal (yes disability is taxed, and your standard deduction is 24K, hmmm you rent, (no mortgage, no charity giving) and you make 32K in disability and 24k is standard deduction vs the old one at 12k and husband and wife exemption, and the higher than 10% bracket does not kick in as low as before.. so people got more out of this, rich still taxed out of their you know where and that money they pay goes to the earned income credit, or healthcare “help” through the tax system. Or is it too much to ask to look at the facts first, educate yourself before just going off about the rich and how bad the administration is. It is amazing that to drive a car I have to take a test and learn something, but to “drive” a country, no test is given… become an educated voter and not the poppet in the media political divide, what ever the side you are on!

        • Bethsheba E.

          I think it’s important to note that while wealthy Americans do sometimes earn/receive (whichever the case may be) an income, which is taxed at a higher rate, their primary source of wealth in inter-generational and investments, which are taxed at a much *lower* rate than income. This is how families are able to retain wealth. So to say the wealthy pay for the SSDI/SSI system is not entirely true, as they pay proportionally less income tax in relation to overall wealth than the middle class and working poor. This is a very common misconception. It’s also important to note that people drawing SSDI pay a monthly premium for their health insurance, therefore continuing to pay into the system.

          • Dr. D.

            Bethsheba makes some pretty good points here. But the wealth is not always inter-generational. I can only use my own example with certainty, but have a few close contacts who I know are similarly situated first generational ‘wealth machines.’ I made my own money – my parents and other family passed nothing on to us, and I wouldn’t have expected them to. My wife’s single mother never had anything except a clean, safe place for her kids to live, plenty of food on the table, & more than enough other stuff to go around. All three of her kids got top-notch college educations and started off with great jobs right out of college. I spent 22 more years in the Army and retired as a Sergeant Major.

        • MFWall

          Im sorry, SSDI is what I receive. Are you (I assume you mean taxpayers) paying my bills for me? I thought bc I paid my share for the 32years I was able to work, as a single, zero deductions person, making before taxes, approximately $97K/yr at the highest, I honestly thought that counted. I just don’t know how much longer I can handle losing my ability to support myself thru work, & the judgement that brings-particularly from supporters of Trump, that I can take. I’m really starting to wonder that if I offered to die so I wouldn’t have to cause the taxpayer anymore grief, would that appease ppl like you? Im so sorry I can’t do it anymore & I need help, long-term. I so so so wish it wasn’t the case. It sickens me to need your help. There is no dignity & obviously zero respect towsrds those of us who are disabled. I never dreamed this would happen to me. No one is more disgusted with this lot in my life than me. So thanks for paying your taxes to help support me, one of the apparent dregs of humanity….?

  8. Brenda B.

    The judge refused to go with my daughters doctors recommendations he stated. She has a sensorinural hearing loss. 70 percent loss in rt. ear and 80 percent hearing loss in her left ear and it is getting worse. In addition, she has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum which can contribute to this as well as other congenital issues such as congenital fusions of her spine in her cervical and thoracic area causing limited movement now.. Now where do we go? Her disability was discontinued.

    • Ty

      Apeal it! again! And again It took my husband 7 year to receive his

  9. Fahmi N.

    Any modernizing of outdated systems is truly welcome. When will you modernize the rules regarding establishing an account access for Americans living mostly overseas?? Current rule stipulated that one must have a US address.

  10. Larry J.

    Are you saying that the inability to speak English is considered a disability?

    • Phil F.

      Only in limited circumstances and when there are a number of other limitations. Language has never been considered a disability in jobs which require physical strength and stamina.

      • Kristen O.

        And neither is education and yet SSI is required to look at your level of education when evaluating your medical condition? Your level of education should have no relavance to your medical condition. Your MEDICAL CONDITION is determining if your able to work not your level of education! Someone that is HIGHLY educared may still have a medical condition that prevents them to preform efficiently in a work environment. Now what this new rule is stating is, being able to communicate effectively in ENGLISH is NO LONGER going to be a determining factor in eligibility. This is becoming ridiculous!

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