The Disability Insurance Program – Securing Today and Tomorrow for 60 Years

judychesserblogpicSocial 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.

About Judy Chesser, Deputy Commissioner, Legislation and Congressional Affairs

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155 thoughts on “The Disability Insurance Program – Securing Today and Tomorrow for 60 Years

  1. V.A. PENSIONS
    ARE FOR LOW INCOME WARTIME VETERANS, ARE AGE 65 OR OLDER, OR PERMANENTLY AND TOTALLY DISABLED.
    IF THE VETERTAN IS FOUND TO ELIGIBLE HIS COMPENSATION IS NON-TAXABLE AS IT IS NOT EARNED INCOME.

    ON V.A. DISABILITY COMPENSATION A VETERAN IS FOUND ELIGIBLE IF THE DISABILITY OR INJURY WAS ACQUIRED DURING MILITARY SERVICE AND RATED FROM 0% TO 100%.

    CASE IN POINT: A VETERAN CAME HOME WITH A FRACTURED SPINE RATED AT 70%, SO THE DOLLOAR AMOUNT OF HIS COMPENSATION IS NOT EARNED INCOME, AND NON-TAXABLE AND SHOULD NOT BE REPORTED AS INCOME. IF THE VETERAN INCLUDES IT AS INCOME IT WILL BE TAXED.
    SOCIAL SECURITY IS BASED ON EARNED INCOME CREDITS AND TAXABLE; IT SHOULD NOT BE TAXABLE BECAUSE THIS INCOME CREDIT WAS TAXED DURING OUR WORKING YEARS, THIS IS THE FIGHT WHICH SHOULD BE OF MAJOR CONCERN.

  2. what is the difference between ssi and ssdi how do I know which one I am getting? If I get offered part b of Medicare am I getting SSDI?

    • Thank you for your question Barb. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs based disability program that pays benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. Blind or disabled children may also get SSI.
      SSDI pays disability benefits to those who cannot work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, providing the person has paid enough into the Social Security program. Individuals become eligible for Medicare after they receive SSDI-disability benefits for 24 months. Please contact us at 1-800-772-1213 if you need further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  3. Do you happen to know how and when I should apply for a “freeze” so the years not worked due to being on SSDI will not downgrade my social security retirement benefits? Will be going off SSDI this year and qualify for SS benefits next year.

    • Hello, Denise. Thanks for your question. A period of disability, if used to compute a beneficiary’s retirement benefits, could have a reduction effect on his or her future benefits. This is because a disabled individual, generally has little or no earnings during a period of disability. We refer to a period of disability for a worker as a “disability freeze”. To prevent the reduction or loss of future benefits, a disability freeze eliminates the years of low earnings due to disability when computing benefit amounts for certain Social Security benefits. The disability freeze provisions, in effect, ignore periods of disability when computing a retirement benefit. Thus, the individual is “held-harmless” as far their potential entitlement to other types of Social Security benefits. In most cases, you will continue to receive benefits as long as you are disabled. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. Keep in mind your disability benefits are generally higher than early retirement benefits. We hope this helps.

  4. Please tell the new Acting Commissioner Nancy Berryhill to purchase the Budget Declaration of the United States of America and Social Security Amendments with a 3% COLA from January 1, 2017.

    The only profession more dangerous than logging is retiree. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that logging has the highest death rate of any career at a rate of about 100 per 100,000 per year, since the Mining Safety and Health Act of 1977 reduced the rate of mining accidents to less than 20 per 100,000 labor years. The average death rate for all careers studied by OSHA is about 3 deaths per 100,000. In peacetime there have been years where the entire million man US military does not report a single casualty – 50-100 crunches, 50-100 push-ups and 3 mile run. National death rate statistics maintained by the SSA Actuary slightly improve, go down at an average rate of 99.93% annually from a death rate of 781.4 per 100,000 for all ages, 239.8 per 100,000 under the age of 65 and 4,392.3 per 100,000 over the age of 65 in 2015. According to the Actuary the total age-sex-adjusted death rate declined at an average annual rate of 1.05 percent between 1900 and 2013. Between 1979 and 2013, the period for which death rates were analyzed by cause, the total age-sex-adjusted death rate, for all causes combined, declined at an average rate of 0.93 percent per year. Death rates have declined substantially in the U.S. since 1900, with rapid declines over some periods and slow or no improvement over the other periods. Historical death rates generally declined more slowly for older ages and more rapidly for children and infants than for the rest of the population. Between 1900 and 2013, the age-sex-adjusted death rate for ages 65 and over declined at an average rate of 0.78 percent per year, while declining at an average rate of 3.08 percent per year for ages under 15 (Goss ’16: 85). According to Child Trends Databank death rates for children have fallen dramatically since 1980. Deaths rates for infants under 1 year fell from 1,288 to 588 per 100,000 between 1980 and 2014. Between 1980 and 2014 the death rate of children ages 1 to 4 dropped from 64 to 24 per 100,000. Between 1980 and 2014 the death rate of children ages five to 14 went down from 31 to 13 per 100,000. Between 1980 and 2014 the death rate for teens between the ages of 15 and 19 went down from 98 to 46 per 100,000. Risk of dying increases for high school students mostly because of driving accidents. Males between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die as females 63 versus 29 deaths per 100,000 in 2014. There is no need to adjust the social security Actuary mortality assumptions because the only reason that under age 65 deaths are so high is because of infant mortality under age 1 was 588 per 100,000 in 2014. The death rate for disability beneficiaries is estimated to be about 10 per 100,000, more than three times higher than the national average of 3 per 100,000 (Chesser ’16). The actual death and recovery rates of disability beneficiaries requires further study in the annual report.

    Sanders, Tony J. Budget Declaration of the United States of America. Social Security Amendments of January 1, 2017. White House Office of Management and Budget FY 2018. 2017 Annual Summer Solstice Instructions to the Board of Trustees of the Federal OASDI Trust Funds and SSI Program Hospitals & Asylums HA-1-1-17 http://www.title24ucode.org/ss2017.doc

    • Hi Lynn. For information about the food stamps program, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you will need to contact your local SNAP office. In most states, if you receive SSI, you may be eligible to receive SNAP assistance to purchase food. The assistance you receive from SNAP does not affect your SSI benefits. For more information on SNAP, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10100.pdf. We hope this helps.

  5. Why not SSI?? I’m confined to my home. Using a walker and still can’t stand for two minuets. Just to get up to go to the bathroom, hurts so much and I get so winded. I’m in constant pain. No pain meds. I know what this woman is going through is worse than what I’m going through. I lost my hearing at first it was gradually and then speeded up. My T-score is -3.0 bones are brittle. I’m just always in constant pain. I’m so very so for this woman and will keep her in my prayers. Thanks for listening.

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