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Social Security Disability Insurance Could be a Lifeline for Millions of Americans

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides insurance to millions of American workers and their families. IT is an important part of our nation's Social Security system. Established nearly 60 years ago, workers and their families are provided insurance in retirement and in the event of a serious long-term disability. The 11 million Americans currently benefiting form SSDI could face an abrupt reduction of 19% in benefits if lawmakers cannot address a long-projected shortfall in the program's finances.

How the Program Works

SSDI is an insurance program that workers pay for while they are employed. If the employee is unable to maintain employment because of a severe disability, SSDI replaces part of the lost income. Beneficiaries earn coverage under the Social Security system through employment and paying into the system.

Most people receiving SSDI earned middle-class wages before becoming disabled, and beneficiaries usually have paid into Social Security for about 22 years before becoming eligible for SSDI. To receive SSDI benefits, workers must have a significant and recent work history, in addition to a serious disability that keeps them from doing their job for a certain length of time.  These benefits are limited but they can help families pay the necessary bills.

Benefits May Be Limited But Are Vital 

Social Security Disability benefits are modest - usually only about a third of what beneficiaries earned before their disability. On average, in the beneficiaries' highest five-year earning period before receiving SSDI, they earned about $42,000 per year. By comparison SSDI benefits will average about 13,980 per year.

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