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History of Social Security Disability

More than 150 million people in the United States are covered for disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, many people think of the SSA as an administrator of old-age pension programs and may not be aware of the benefits they are paying for with every paycheck out of their FICA taxes.

Because May is Disability Insurance Awareness month, it seems like a good time to highlight the history of the Social Security Disability insurance program and how benefits have changed over time.

The old age pension program run by the SSA was enacted in 1935. At the time, it provided only retirement benefits at age 65. Not until 1954 did disability benefits become part of Social Security programs. Even then, the benefits offered were quite different from those provided today.

Social Security Disability as enacted in 1954 did not provide direct payments to individual workers. Instead, the law "froze" the person's Social Security record when they were unable to work so that the non-working years would not reduce future retirement benefits.

In 1956, the law was changed to provide benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and to adult disabled children. It was further amended in 1960 to provide disability benefits to any qualified disabled workers of any age and to their dependents.

The path to the current version of SSD was not direct. Many lawmakers in the 1940s and early 1950s argued that SSD should exclusively encourage rehabilitation. An earlier bill that was not passed in its original form in 1950 did not include any type of cash assistance for disabled workers. Even after Social Security old-age pensions become very popular, disability benefits remained controversial and despite efforts by President Eisenhower and the House of Representatives, the Senate refused to pass legislation that included cash benefits for disabled workers.

As a way to make disability benefits more accepted, proponents crafted a bill that limited disability benefits to those workers between 50 and 65. When the bill finally passed in 1956, it was by the slimmest of margins.

Among the compromises worked out was that some employees are state employees while others are federal employees though the expenses are exclusively born by the federal government through our FICA taxes.

The program has survived despite fierce opposition by many conservative politicians who secretly wish to privatize both the retirement and disability program. Despite their opposition, today the disability program is the lifeline for hundreds of thousands of disabled workers who otherwise would have no income and no health insurance. The burden of proof that the SSA places on disabled workers to document their disability is very high and many applicants for benefits are denied.

Consequently, it is important to have knowledgeable assistance when it comes to apply for SSD benefits. For help with any matter related to SSD, do what many others have done. Contact Binder & Binder©, America's most successful Social Security Disability Advocates. Tell them your story and learn how they can help.

Source: DL Online, "Disability program became part of SSA in 1954 amendment," May 28, 2014.

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