Social Security Celebrates Variety of Milestones

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Bushman District Manager, Elgin Social Security Office

This month, Social Security celebrates its 68th birthday. On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

I thought this is a good opportunity to review some of the other milestones that mark the history of one of our country's most popular government programs.

- On Oct. 14, 1936, 14 months to the day after the law was signed, the new Social Security Board (the name would later be changed to the Social Security Administration) opened its first field office. It was located in Austin, Texas.

Today, there are about 1,300 Social Security offices in small towns and large cities across America. There are even offices in faraway places such as Guam and American Samoa.

Because of our far-flung network of field offices, we used to say that there probably is a Social Security office just down the road from where you live. But today, we can say there is a Social Security office in the next room!

Assuming you have a computer in that room, you can do most of your Social Security business online at

- On Nov. 24, 1936, the Social Security Board started issuing Social Security numbers through local post offices. The first Social Security number was issued to a man in New Rochelle, N.Y.

But the lowest number ever issued, 001-01-0001, went to a woman living in Concord, N.H.

Sixty-eight years later, more than 400 million Social Security numbers have been issued. And, of course, people no longer go to the post office to get a number.

In fact, today, with the help of hospitals and bureaus of vital statistics around the country, most Social Security numbers are applied for before the child leaves the hospital.

- On Aug. 10, 1939, the Social Security law was amended to include benefits to the spouses and children of retirees and to the widows and children of workers who died.

Today, in addition to more than 29 million retirees, Social Security pays monthly benefits to more than three million of their spouses and children.

And Social Security sends monthly survivor benefits to about seven million widows, widowers and children.

- On Jan. 31, 1940, Ida May Fuller of Vermont became the first person in the country to receive a monthly Social Security check. Prior to that, Social Security issued one-time payments to workers who retired between 1935 and 1940.

Fuller's first Social Security check was in the amount of $22.54. She lived until the age of 100 and passed away in January 1975. In her 35 years as a Social Security beneficiary, she received more than $22,000 in benefits.

- On Aug. 1, 1956, the disability program was added to Social Security. Today, more than five million people with severe disabilities get monthly benefits, along with another 1.7 million spouses and children.

- On July 30, 1965, the Medicare program was born. Although it is part of the Social Security Act, and for many years the program was managed by the Social Security Administration, beginning in 1977, control was turned over to the newly created Health Care Financing Administration, now called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

- On Oct. 30, 1972, the 1972 Social Security Amendments were signed into law, including the creation of a major new program called Supplemental Security Income. …