SSDI 60th

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

August 18, 2016 • By

Last Updated: August 18, 2016

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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  1. Yvonne Muller

    Hello, I need a few publications; 05-10100, 05-101, 05-10101, 05-10061, 05-10095 and 64_030. I have tried everything; telephoning ss (the automated voice thanked me for calling and hung up the phone) and searching online (that’s how I got here). Please tell me how to get them.

  2. Tina Garman

    I am turning 62 on May 8th. I am 100% SSD, can I still get SSI?
    Thank you T. Garman

    • Ray Fernandez, Public Affairs Specialist

      Hello Tina, we will automatically convert your Social Security disability benefits to retirement benefits when you attain your full retirement age.
      The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits are also payable to people 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. If you have low income and limited resources, you may be eligible to receive both benefits. In 2018, the SSI monthly payment for an individual is $750.
      If you think you’re eligible, you can apply by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Or you can contact your local Social Security office.
      We hope this information helps.

  3. Stanley Denman

    As a social security disability attorney in Dallas since 1991, I know how important this program is and what it means to struggling families. Very good article highlighting how important this program is, and how strict the definition of disability is, – especially needed now that the disability is program is under biased attacks in the media.

  4. otis davis

    we were told to look into the program for increased social security benefits for vets. My husband is 100%disabled from the Vietnam war caused by agent orange. He is in a chair for movement.
    we would like to know more about it.

    • Ray Fernandez, Public Affairs Specialist

      Hello Otis. Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for periods of active duty from 1957 through 2001 can also be credited to your Social Security earnings record for benefit purposes. Visit our Retirement Planner on Military Retirement And Social Security Benefits web page for complete information. Thanks!

  5. Camille Devaux

    It is nice to know that you can get help for any legal issues you may have involving social security. This is a great way to make sure that you are being rightfully compensated. My sister might like knowing that as she looks into getting social security disability insurance services for her husband.

  6. Jamesetta Nickerson

    I recently gave some information to a rep. ( I think ) from AARP. in reference to my disability benefits. I have received Disability since 2008. Is there any way to check any unnecessary activity with my social security without my knowledge ?

  7. Cathy perry- strong

    I was married and divorced then remarried my husband died 6 months later I am now 60 am I eligible for any of his as benifits

  8. Smith Miller

    It would be great to peak into the insurance blog run by Alchemy Insurance Agency provides free insurance quotes in life insurance, auto insurance, commercial insurance, farm insurance &, etc.

  9. Carole Skolnik

    I am planning to apply to take spousal / widow benefits vs taking my own ssi benefits in Jan. 2020. How do I accomplish this and can I do this online I will be 66 years old on January 1, 2020. Thank you.

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Carole. We are sorry to hear about your loss. The amount of your widow’s benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of your husband, when he started receiving his benefits, your age, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current retirement benefit, you would be eligible for survivor benefits. At this time, we do not offer an online application for survivors benefits. You can call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to request an appointment. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day. For information about survivors benefits, visit our Survivor Planner: If You Are The Survivor. We hope this helps

  10. taisiz

    Can I apply for Food Stamps if I have Disability?

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Taisiz. Thanks for your question. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formally known as the food stamp program, provides help for low-income households to buy the food needed for good health. 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 here. We hope this helps.

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