The Social Security Act Overview

The Social Security Act of 1935 is America's foremost social welfare law. This law was enacted after the Committee on Economic Security drafted a comprehensive social insurance program. Congress passed the new legislation, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Act into federal law.

It seems like only a few programs in the Social Security system get all the attention. These include retirement and disability programs. But did you know there are other Social Security programs where you may be eligible for benefits? Read on for more information. We will discuss the history of the Social Security Act and how you may qualify for monthly benefits under other Social Security programs.

 The Act was part of Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives during the Great Depression. The Act paid federal old-age benefits and benefits to unemployed or disadvantaged Americans.

The Act has undergone various amendments. In 1939, the Senate and House of Representatives drafted amendments to the Act. These amendments were for payments called "dependents benefits." Dependents benefits were payments to spouses and minor children of retired workers. The amendments also include survivors benefits paid to the worker's family in the event of an untimely death. This program provided benefits for dependents of the male wage earner.

In 1965 the Act was amended again to include Medicare and Medicaid.

Social Security Retirement Benefits

Did you ever wonder how you pay into the Social Security retirement system? Perhaps you are curious about how the government calculates federal-old age assistance benefits.

If you are employed, you and your employer each pay 6.2 percent of your wages through a payroll tax as of 2023. These taxes earn "credits" toward Social Security retirement benefits. If you are self-employed, you must report your net earnings to the IRS and the Social Security Administration (SSA) every year. The self-employed tax rate is 15.3%. This rate consists of a 12.4% tax for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare as of 2023.

Your credits are used in combination with your birth year to determine when you receive retirement benefits. Full benefits are now available to retirees who are 66, depending on their birth year. Early retirees, starting at 62, may receive reduced benefits if they've paid Social Security taxes for 10 years or more. This chart and this calculator will help you determine how much you may be entitled to and when.

The following are some of the benefits available under an eligible worker's record:

  • If you die, SSA may provide survivors benefits to your eligible family members. This benefit is important for child welfare and child health. A worker's widow or widower is entitled to early Social Security survivors benefits at age 60. But this will reduce their income by a fraction of a percent every month before full retirement age.

Keep in mind that certain pension plans may reduce your benefits. But unemployment compensation will not affect retirement benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance

The Act expanded again to create the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program found in Title II of the United States Code (U.S.C). This program is for workers who become disabled before retirement age and can no longer work.

A worker must be "fully insured" to receive SSDI benefits. This means you must have earned a minimum of 40 quarters of covered or at least one quarter of coverage every year since you turned sixteen. The worker must show that they can no longer work in their previous occupation due to severe impairment. They must also show they cannot perform their prior work or adjust to any other work.

Other Public Welfare Programs Created by the Social Security Act

The Social Security Act, as amended, created additional public welfare programs. Eligible individuals may be entitled to certain benefits.

Medicaid and Medicare

The Act created and governs the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. Medicare helps elderly and disabled beneficiaries receive medical treatment. Most people age 65 and older are entitled to public health services and medical insurance under Medicare. Medicaid provides health insurance to people, regardless of age, who cannot afford health care.

Supplemental Security Income

This program helps meet the basic needs of low-income individuals and families. Supplemental Security Income is a welfare service that provides federal funds to elderly, blind, and disabled people. These benefits include children. Eligibility requires that these individuals have little or no income of their own. The SSI payments have monthly maximums. The maximum payment amounts in 2023 are $914 for an individual and $1,371 for an individual with an eligible spouse. These amounts increase with annual cost-of-living increases.

Unemployment Insurance

Today the Act doesn't cover unemployment insurance. Now the federal government partners with the state to jointly manage the programs and benefits. These benefits help workers who become involuntarily unemployed and are looking for new and suitable employment. Every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, has this type of insurance. Weekly unemployment benefits vary from state to state.

Administration of Social Security Programs

The SSA administers many of the nation's social welfare programs, including those discussed above. The SSA also has its own process where individuals can appeal a denial of benefits. The Administration has over 1,230 field offices throughout the United States. The Social Security Advisory Board (Social Security Board) comprises experts on Social Security policy. The Social Security Board advises the President and other high-ranking officials.

Funding and Expenditures

Your Social Security taxes fund the Social Security programs. Your taxes are deposited into the two federal Social Security trust funds maintained by the U.S. Treasury. One of these trust funds is called the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund. This fund pays retirement and survivors benefits. The other fund is called the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. This fund pays disability benefits.

Social Security is arguably the largest federal government program. Sixty-seven million people per month receive benefits as of 2023. Social Security expenditures totaled over $1 trillion in 2023.

As the workforce ages, more people either will retire or experience a disability. Will Social Security benefits be there for you? Social Security payments far exceed Social Security tax revenues. According to current projections, the program's trust will be exhausted in just ten years.

Finding a Disability Attorney

You may have questions about federal assistance programs or benefits under the Act. A qualified Social Security attorney can help you decide what programs for which you may be eligible. A Social Security lawyer can guide you through the application process if you decide to apply. They can assist with preliminary steps like gathering documents, including your Social Security card, to start the process.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • The initial Social Security process doesn’t require an attorney
  • An attorney primarily handles claims that are denied
  • It can be helpful to have an attorney during Social Security benefit disputes or appeals

A Social Security lawyer can help protect your rights to your benefits.

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Don’t Forget About Estate Planning

Now is a great time to consider creating or revising your estate plan. Protect your assets through a will, decide who can make financial decisions for you through a power of attorney, and ensure you make important health care decisions through a health care directive. You can create these critical documents online using DIY estate planning forms.

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