Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program of the United States government. It is managed by the Social Security Administration and is designed to provide income supplements to people who are physically restricted in their ability to be employed because of a notable disability, usually a physical disability. SSD can be supplied on either a temporary or permanent basis, usually directly correlated to whether the person’s disability is temporary or permanent.

Unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SSD does not depend on the income of the disabled individual receiving it. A legitimately disabled person (a finding based on legal and medical justification) of any income level can theoretically receive SSD. (“Disability” under SSDI is measured by a different standard than under the Americans with Disabilities Act.) Most SSI recipients are below an administratively-mandated income threshold, and indeed these individuals must in fact stay below that threshold to continue receiving SSI; but this is not the case with SSD.

Informal names for SSDI include Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Title II benefits. These names come from the chapter title of the governing section of the Social Security Act, which came into law in August 1935.

At the end of 2011, there were 10.6 million Americans collecting SSDI, up from 7.2 million in 2002.[1] The share of the U.S. population receiving SSDI benefits has risen rapidly over the past two decades, from 2.2 percent of adults age 25 to 64 in 1985 to 4.1 percent in 2005.[2]

In a 2006 analysis by economists David Autor and Mark Duggan for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Autor and Duggan wrote that the most significant factor in the growth of SSDI usage had been the loosening of the SSDI screening process that took place in 1984, following the signing into law of the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984, which directed the Social Security Administration to place more weight on applicants’ reported pain and discomfort, relax screening of mental illness, consider multiple non-severe ailments to be disabling, and give more credence to medical evidence provided by the applicant’s doctor. These changes had the effect of increasing the number of new SSDI awards and shifting their composition towards claimants with low-mortality disorders such as mental illness and back pain. Autor and Duggan wrote that a second factor in increased SSDI usage was the rising value of SSDI benefits relative to what recipients would have earned if they had been employed, saying that in 1984 a low-income older male SSDI recipient would have received from SSDI about 68% of what he would have earned had he been working, and that by 2004, due to increasing income inequality in the United States, the same man would have received from SSDI 86% of what he would have earned through work. Autor and Duggan say that aging and changes to the overall health of the U.S. population, have had a small effect at most on SSDI usage.[3]

Autor and Duggan argue that because the definition of disability adopted in 1984 is quite broad, the SSDI program often functions in practice as an insurance program for unemployable people.[3]

As of December 2013, under current law, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the “Disability Insurance trust fund will be exhausted in fiscal year 2017 and the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund will be exhausted in 2033”.[4]

In December 2014, the SSDI program insured approximately 10.9 million beneficiaries including disabled workers and their spouses and children.[5]


The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic[17][18] consisting of 50 statesand a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is located in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.80 million square miles (9.85 million km2)[4] and with around 318 million people, the United States is the world’s fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.[19]The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.[20]

The United States is a developed country and has the world’s largest national economy.[6] The economy is fueled by an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity.[29] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, it continues to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers.[30] The country accounts for 37% of global military spending,[31] being the world’s foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.[32]