Legislation that sponsors say could save as much as $1 billion a year in the cost of Social Security disability retirement was approved yesterday by a House subcommittee.

Although the measure was approved without a dissenting vote by the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, its chances of becoming law in the final weeks of this year's congressional session are slight. Sponsors said it will be reintroduced next year.

Since retirement for disability was added to the basic old age insurance system in 1957, outlays have far outrun estimates.

The bill would make a number of changes in the program, with those reducing outlays more than outweighing those that would increase them.

One would put a ceiling on the benefits payable to a relatively young disabled retired person with a family, thus bringing the benefits more nearly in line with those payable to an elderly retiree. The maximum family benefit would be 50 percent of the worker's basic benefit or 80 percent of his average taxed earnings in the past.

Another change would benefit working blind persons. Under existing law a person earning as much as $240 a month is not considered disabled for pension purposes, except that the blind are allowed to earn as much as $333 a month. The bill would raise the monthly ceiling for the blind to $730.

Other features of the bill are intended to encourage disabled persons to attempt gainful employment.

One would extend from the present nine months to one year the period during which a disabled retiree may work and earn more than the ceiling without losing benefits.