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Looking historically at the Social Security Disability program

Although we are lawyers and not history teachers, we specialize in an important area of the law with deep historical underpinnings that provides for programs serving as lifelines to disabled people and children in lower-income homes. That history is fascinating, and we think that many our readers in Wisconsin and elsewhere might be interested in noting some of the notable developments that have occurred in our area of practice.

That area is personal injury and disability, with an acute focus on the federal Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income programs that provide benefits to eligible claimants.

It might interest readers to know that the SSD program did not come into existence simultaneously with the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. In fact, that legislation simply provided for retirement benefits from the age of 65.

It was not until 19 years later, in 1954, that the Social Security program was expanded under President Eisenhower, with a special eye on disabled Americans. Legislative revision at that time, though, was limited only to freezing disabled workers' Social Security records so that periods of unemployment did not subsequently reduce retirement benefits.

That was obviously an incremental and incomplete change, and it was further modified in 1956, with the law mandating that disability benefits be paid to disabled adult children and disabled workers between the ages of 50 and 64.

Again, the incomplete nature of that amendment was facially clear, and further change ultimately ensued in 1960 that essentially aligned the program with what it is today. Legislation that year provided for payment to all disabled workers and their dependents.

As is clear, SSD has been marked by a slow and continuous evolution. The road toward meaningful benefits has also been influenced by a realization that working Americans who have contributed payroll taxes to cover against health risks have a lawful right to be protected against those risks when disability occurs.

Persons with questions or concerns regarding SSD or SSI eligibility can obtain prompt answers and strong legal representation from a proven personal injury and disability attorney.

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

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