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The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs
ing of program costs. The first payments were made in 1957. At that time, SSDI was thought of as a source of early retirement benefits mainly for men who had worked most of their lives but became disabled with chronic diseases of aging close to the normal age of retirement.
Period of Growth
Over the years the SSDI program has steadily, if not uniformly, expanded its coverage and support levels. The program grew rapidly in the early 1960s and through the middle of the 1970s. Several amendments to the Social Security Act extended the qualifying requirements for disability benefits. In 1958, benefits were extended to dependents of beneficiaries. The 1960 amendments extended benefits to all qualified persons under 65 years of age. These alterations changed the concept of SSDI from being an alternative to retirement to an alternative to working. The legislative amendments of 1965 made the definition of disability more liberal by requiring only that the impairment be expected to result in death or to last for at least 12 months. The 1967 amendments eased the insured status requirements for persons under age 31, allowing a substantial number of young beneficiaries to enter the rolls. These amendments led to an increasing proportion of younger and relatively healthier beneficiaries. The required waiting period before receiving benefits was reduced from six to five months in 1972. The level of SSDI benefit amounts was increased in the early 1970s and automatic cost-of-living adjustments were enacted. Also in 1972, Medicare coverage was extended to persons who had received disability benefits for two years. By the mid-1970s these changes had resulted in higher replacement rates of prior earnings, making it more financially attractive for people to apply for benefits and for beneficiaries to remain on the rolls.
These changes defined a much larger pool of persons potentially qualified for entitlement. The early 1970s experienced a rapid increase in the number of applications and awards. During the period 1960–1975, the number of applications grew rapidly from about 418,000 in 1960 to nearly 1.3 million in 1975. During the same period the number of awards grew from about 200,000 in 1960 to almost 600,000 in 1975. Figure 2-1 shows the number of applications, awards, beneficiaries on the rolls, and terminations of disability worker benefits from 1960 to 2000. In relative terms, the number of applicants grew from 8.6 to 15 per 1,000 persons insured in case of disability from 1960 to 1975 (see Table 2-1 below).
In 1970, Congress enacted legislation establishing the Black Lung Program and in 1972 enacted legislation establishing the Supplemental Security Income program for the aged, blind, and disabled (P.L. 92-603). These programs, especially SSI, had a major impact on the growth and manage-