The U.S. Social Security program is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The first check was sent out on January 31, 1940 to Ida May Fuller and the amount was $22.54. The program has constantly been under attack and still is, in spite of the fact that it provides succor to numerous Americans. It can be regarded as one of the largest assets of Americans. Employees with the highest past covered earnings will gain most from maximizing their Social Security.
Disability benefits are granted only after a thorough review of the applicant’s medical records to establish disability in line with the SSA’s definition. Even so, there are many critics of the program who launch attacks against it from time to time. The latest tussle is that the program’s disability trust fund is expected to be exhausted by next year.
The program has moved forward successfully and today it collects payroll taxes from around 210 million workers. $800 billion is paid in annual benefits to around 60 million retired and disabled beneficiaries. For older Americans, the SS program continues to be of immense support providing 90% or more of the income of 22% elderly couples and 47% elderly singles. Here is a timeline highlighting important landmarks of the program.
- It was in the year 1939 that the SS program began offering benefits to employees’ spouses, children and survivors.
- Monthly payment of benefits began in 1940.
- Benefit amount was increased in 1950 and 1952.
- SSD or disability benefits were included in the following years.
- The early retirement age was lowered to 62 in 1962.
- Medicare was created in 1965, and the SS was given the responsibility of administering the benefits.
- In early 1970, the Supplemental Security Income program that offers benefits to eligible low-income persons was introduced.
- 1972 saw the addition of COLA or cost-of-living adjustments. This helps retirees maintain their standard of living.
- In 1977 and 1983, amendments were introduced to support SS’ financing. The current rules for retirement ages and the beginning of federal taxation of SS benefits were established with the last reform.
- A historic change was made in 2000, when the Retirement Earnings Test was changed to ensure that people who reached retirement age would no longer experience reduction in the benefits if their work wages exceeded certain levels. These amendments were passed without any controversy or challenge in either house of Congress.
Social Security offers protection for all Americans, and millions of disabled and elderly Americans totally depend on it. It is the responsibility of lawmakers to assure the younger workers also that they can count on this beneficial program.