A Short History of Disability Benefits

Sun Jun 29, 2014 20:24:05PM

Blue Collar workers loading a container onto a container ship.
It took the United States nearly two hundred years before it realized the importance of setting up a system for citizens who have become unable to work and need assistance to ensure they can still provide for themselves. Up until 1956 an individual who became disabled had little to no protections and had to rely on the help of others if they fell on hard times and couldn't work anymore. The political will was not there and a lot of misinformation plagued any chance of passing Disability Insurance into law.

The concept of a Disability Insurance can be traced back to the Social Security debate in the late 1930's. One of the main reasons it was not placed into the original Social Security law was because the politicians at the time were worried that it would be impossible to figure out who was chronically disabled and unable to work and who was able bodied but had given up on finding work because of the Great Depression. The idea of providing for able bodied people who had given up on work worried a multitude of representatives and Disability Insurance was shelved for the time being.

Disability Insurance was put on the shelves for the next twenty years. It started seeing signs of life again in 1949 when the House of Representatives began to hold hearings on the issue. It took another seven years, but multiple compromises and hand wringing finally helped push it across the finish line with the passage of the 1956 Social Security Amendments.

The program has expanded and contracted throughout the fifty plus years of its existence, but the fundamentals have stayed the same throughout. Disability Insurance expanded in 1969 with the passage of the Supplemental Security Income Act, which is a program run by the Social Security Administration, but funded by the United States Treasury. The program is designed to give cash assistance to poor individuals aged 65 and older, blind, and disabled individuals.

While disability insurance continues to be a controversial topic among many individuals, the foundation of the program has never been stronger. The politics behind who should receive care will continue to be hashed out ad infinitum, but it has become generally accepted that those individuals who can not work due to a disability should receive care.
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