Social Security provides financial benefits, services, and information to help support you throughout life’s journey. On August 1, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Social Security disability insurance program.
Enacted as a part of the Social Security Amendments of 1956, the disability program is an essential lifeline for many workers and their families. People earn this benefit by working and contributing to the Social Security fund. It reinforces a deeply rooted American value – providing financial protection for those who can no longer do substantial work.
Lawmakers considered establishing the disability program as early as 1935, when Congress passed the original Social Security Act. However, policymakers could not reach consensus on how to effectively administer and fund it. Nearly twenty years later, in 1954, Congress established Social Security’s first disability program. It provided a “disability freeze” for disabled workers, which protected a worker’s retirement benefits by not penalizing workers who could not contribute to the Social Security program during periods of disability.
Some lawmakers were concerned about potential program costs, the difficulty of deciding disability claims, and the availability of other assistance. In that contentious climate, it took tough negotiations to create our modern disability program. On August 1, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the program into law.
The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability. We pay benefits to people with a severe medical condition that prevents them from performing substantial work and is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security does not pay benefits for partial disability or short-term disability. Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired in the country and are more than three times as likely to die in a given year as other people the same age.
Today, the Social Security Disability Insurance program provides a financial safety net for millions of Americans. You can visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website to read stories about people currently living with disability. With retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, Social Security is here to help you secure today and tomorrow.