Social Security started in 1935, but disability benefits came later

Farm Forum

Q When did Social Security disability begin?

A The original 1935 Social Security Act contained many provisions, including unemployment compensation, but in terms of what we now consider Social Security, it introduced only retirement benefits at age 65. Survivor and disability benefits were parts of subsequent legislation. All of these are based on a person’s work record.

Signed into law by President Eisenhower, the Social Security Amendments of 1954 initiated a disability insurance program which provided the public with additional coverage against economic insecurity.

The Amendments of 1954 did not provide a monthly cash benefit. Instead, the legislation put a “freeze” on a worker’s Social Security record during the years when they were unable to work to prevent such periods of disability from reducing or wiping out future retirement and survivor benefit.

On August 1, 1956, the Social Security Act was amended to provide benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and disabled adult children. Then, in September 1960, President Eisenhower signed a law amending the disability rules to permit payment of benefits to disabled workers of any age and to their dependents.

On May 16, 1966, the one-millionth disabled worker was placed in current payment status on the Social Security disability benefit rolls. As of December 2012, the number of Social Security beneficiaries nationally receiving disability benefits totaled 8,826,591 workers, plus an additional 162,550 spouses and 1,900,052 children able to receive family benefits through the disabled workers record. Including family members, disability benefits accounted for about 19 percent of all Social Security benefits at that time.

For your state and county as of December 2012, learn the number of people receiving Social Security, and the total amount of those benefits, in the SSA publication OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2012, online at OASDI stands for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance, the formal name for Social Security.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at