Skip to main content
off the charts

Happy Birthday, Social Security Disability Insurance!

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) turns 62 today and, to mark the occasion, we’ve updated our chart book and backgrounder on this vital program, which provides modest benefits to workers who can no longer support themselves due to a serious and long-lasting medical impairment.

Each day, about 10,000 baby boomers celebrate their 65th birthday. As the large baby-boom generation moves from working age to retirement age — a shift that will end by 2030 — demographic pressures on SSDI are easing, leading to a smaller pool of applicants (see graph) and fewer beneficiaries overall. These trends have improved SSDI’s financial outlook.

SSDI’s improving finances are good news for all Americans, including:

  • SSDI beneficiaries. Roughly 8.6 million disabled workers receive SSDI benefits, which replace part of the wages they lost when they became seriously injured or ill. The average SSDI beneficiary had 22 years of work experience and earned middle-class wages before becoming disabled.
  • Family members. When breadwinners become disabled, their family members benefit from the disabled-worker benefits they receive, and they sometimes receive a dependent benefit in their own right. In May 2018, 123,000 spouses and 1.5 million children received these benefits.
  • Workers. By working and contributing to Social Security in each paycheck, 155 million American workers have earned SSDI protection in case they become disabled. About 1 in 4 young people will become disabled before retirement, so Social Security’s protection is critical.