As experienced Social Security lawyers practicing in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, our jobs are to focus on the nitty gritty of Social Security disability claims: the factual details and supporting evidence that can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful claim. We understand the intricacies of the often complex disability claims process because we have been navigating it for more than 50 years combined. A person seeking Social Security benefits, however, cannot be expected to have such thorough knowledge of what for most Americans is an obscure – albeit highly important – federal system. Yet before a person can decide whether or not to file a claim for Social Security benefits, he or she must know what Social Security is. CNBC’s new primer on the Social Security disability and retirement programs provides the uninitiated with a thorough overview of Social Security and how it works.
As Senior Editor Mark Koba explains, Social Security began in 1935 as a mandatory retirement program created as part of the “New Deal” initiatives – a series of economic programs passed in response to the Great Depression – championed by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is codified in the Social Security Act (the Act) and operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 1954, the Act was amended to provide insurance benefits for persons unable to work due to disability. Today, roughly 56 million people receive some form of Social Security benefits.
Currently, the retirement program offers partial benefits to persons who retire at age 62 and full benefits to those who work until reaching full retirement age (which varies based on date of birth). Benefits are calculated based on the recipient’s earnings over his or her entire lifetime and cost of living adjustments. The average retiree receives a little less than $1,200 per month.
The SSA also provides disability benefits to persons who are disabled, that is, either unable to work for one year, or it is foreseeable that they will be unable to work for over 12 months or more due to a physical or mental impairment. The SSA makes Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to adults and children who are disabled or blind and have limited income and resources. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), on the other hand, is available to disabled persons, their spouses and children, regardless of income and resources, if the disabled person has made sufficient payments into the Social Security system.
Although Social Security is funded by taxes – workers and their employers each pay 6.2 percent of the worker’s earnings into the system – it is not technically part of the federal budget. Social Security taxes are allocated to two separate trust funds: the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds, each of which earn interest.

The above overview is intended to provide a basic introduction to the Social Security system and its disability and retirement programs. For those considering filing a disability benefits claim, this primer should not substitute the advice of an experienced New York disability lawyer who can walk a claimant through the claims process, file the claim on the person’s behalf, and represent the person on appeal, if necessary.