The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program pays cash benefits to nonelderly adults (those younger than age 66) who are judged to be unable to perform “substantial” work because of a disability but who have worked in the past; the program also pays benefits to some of those adults’ dependents.
The Number of DI Beneficiaries Has Increased Nearly Sixfold Since 1970
In 2011, the DI program provided benefits to 8.3 million disabled workers, nearly six times the 1.4 million disabled workers who received benefits in 1970. Including the dependent spouses and children of those workers further increases the number of people receiving support from the program in 2011 to 10.3 million. The growth in the program can be attributed to changes in multiple factors, including demographics, the labor force, federal policy, opportunities for work, and compensation (earnings and benefits) during employment.