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The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs
The Social Security Disability Insurance program (Title II of the Social Security Act (hereafter, “the Act”) and the Supplemental Security Income program (Title XVI of the Act) are the two major federal programs providing cash benefits and eligibility for medical benefits to persons with disabilities. The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) is an insurance program that provides payments to persons with disabilities based on their having been covered previously under the Social Security program. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a means-tested income assistance program for disabled, blind, and aged persons who have limited income and resources regardless of their prior participation in the labor force.
The definition of disability and the process of determining disability are the same for both programs. The Social Security Act defines disability (for adults) as “… inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months …” (Section 223 [d]). Amendments to the Act in 1967 further specified that an individual’s physical and mental impairment(s) must be “… of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he