The Department of Health and Human Services has existed as a cabinet-level department of the government since 1979, when the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was divided into Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.
Prior to 1995, the Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for overseeing the Social Security Administration, including such Social Security Disability programs as Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. From 1995, Social Security Disability programs are overseen directly by the Social Security Administration, which is now independent of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Although the Department of Health and Human Services no longer directly oversees the Social Security Administration, many Social Security Disability beneficiaries are still enrolled in Department of Health and Human Services programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Generally speaking, the SSA is responsible for determining eligibility and enrolling Social Security Disability benefits recipients into Medicare and Medicaid, and the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for actually overseeing the public health programs themselves.
Health and Human Services continues to administer over 300 programs, ranging from educational programs such as Head Start and promoting social and health sciences research in an effort to improve the overall health and welfare of the American people. Many of these programs are aimed at helping individuals with disabilities, including those who receive disability benefits.
Among the more recent Health and Human Services programs is the Healthy People 2020 program, launched in January 2010. This program expands on similar programs released in 1979, 1990, and 2000, and is designed to help educate the American people in an attempt to prevent (when possible) conditions which lead to the need for Social Security Disability benefits. Disability is named as one of six major factors which lead to a gap in the health care system for Americans. Part of the intention of the Health and Human Services program is to close these gaps in care.