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Celebrating Our Social Security System

“It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, on signing the Social Security Act.

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Social Security Act, a law that makes a world of difference to millions of individuals with disabilities each day. While many see Social Security in dollars and cents we at The Arc know better. We know that Social Security provides a safety net for individuals with IDD and their families. Today, our Social Security system includes retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. It’s more than just numbers, it’s people’s lives. But if you want to see the numbers that matter, here is a breakdown of what Social Security is doing for individuals with disabilities:

Over 11 million people with disabilities, their spouses, and children receive Social Security benefits. This includes:

  • Nearly 8 million disabled workers (this is the term used in the Social Security Act). To qualify they must have a severe disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
  • Nearly 1.8 million children of disabled workers.
  • Over 930,000 disabled adult children. These individuals have a severe disability that began before age 22. They qualify when a parent becomes disabled, retires, or dies, and receive benefits from different parts of Social Security depending on their parent’s status. Many people with IDD receive benefits under this category.
  • Nearly 240,000 disabled widow(er)s.

Social Security benefits are modest, averaging about $1,100 to $1,200 per month, but these benefits go a long way in reducing poverty among beneficiaries with disabilities and their families. More than half of disability insurance beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least 75 percent of their income. The vast majority of them receive 90 percent or more of their income from these benefits. For families with a disabled worker, Social Security insurance provides about half of their income.

It’s also important to keep in mind that beneficiaries with disabilities are part of the larger Social Security system. Changes to the Social Security system will affect people with disabilities as much as anyone else.

The Arc strongly supports protecting and expanding the effectiveness of our Social Security system. Please join us in making sure this vital protection is there for people with IDD and their families! For more information about Social Security, or to apply for benefits, visit