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Social Security Disability: How, why did the program begin?

It can hardly be argued that the Social Security Act passed nearly 80 years ago is legislation virtually unrivaled for its vision and sheer sweep.

When the law was enacted under the presidential regime of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, during the midst of the nation’s greatest depression, it was controversial and entirely novel.

Now, decades later (and with aspects of it still being debated), Social Security is firmly ensconced as a centerpiece law providing benefits for Americans in retirement, as well as for persons in Georgia and nationally who qualify to receive disability benefits.

It might interest some readers to know that the Social Security Disability program was not part of the original law. In fact, nothing much was established in 1935 other than a scheme to provide retirement benefits to workers when they reached 65.

Over subsequent years, though, the idea grew that a safety net needed to be put into place to provide for disabled workers and their families. The Social Security program was amended in 1954 to attend to that, but what resulted was quite dissimilar to what features today. The amendment that year merely allowed for a freeze on a worker’s Social Security record during a disability period, so that full retirement benefits configured later weren’t reduced by factoring in periods of unemployment.

Several years later, the law was again adjusted, with President Eisenhower signing off in 1960 on the legislation that is operative presently. Under the law, a worker of any age who has sufficiently contributed to the SSD program through payment of payroll taxes is eligible to apply for benefits.

A look back at the origins and development of SSD reveals some important truths about the program. Most fundamentally, perhaps, is the fact that SSD has never been a government welfare program. Only workers who have qualified through job-related contributions over time are eligible to apply, with benefits being awarded only after they have passed through an arduous application process.

An experienced SSD attorney is often a key ally in helping disabled clients at all stages of their claim, from application to an administrative hearing and, often, at the appellate level.

Disabled workers with qualifying work histories have legal access to the SSD program and the right to receive benefits. With strong legal advocacy to guide them, they can successfully navigate the process.

Source: Farm Forum, "Disability program became part of SSA in 1954 amendment," Howard Kossover, May 30, 2014

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