#203 #48in48 History of SSA

During an election year, there are a ton of soundbites that are thrown at you.  One of the predominant subjects of those soundbites happens to be Social Security.  Some say it is an entitlement (which is interesting, seeing as it is participant driven in that you put in and then you take out).  Some say it should be privatized.  Some work to dismantle it.  Here are 10 interesting FACTS about Social Security that you may or may not know:

  • Social Security was signed into place by Franklin D Roosevelt on August 14, 1935 at 3:30 PM.
  • Because it was a new entity, it had no physical location, no staff, no furniture and no budget.  The first employees of this new department were given by other departments.  The Board consisted of three presidential appointed executives.
  • SSA began as an independent agency in 1935 then became a sub-cabinet in 1939 but returned to its independent status in 1995.
  • The SSA website has a historical section and has interesting details.  That is where I got my information for this short piece. https://www.ssa.gov/history/chrono.html
  • An interesting photo of the people present when SSA was signed into existence can be found: HERE.
  • The taxation of Social Security began in 1984 following passage of a set of Amendments in 1983, which were signed into law by President Reagan in April 1983. These amendments passed the Congress in 1983 on an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote. The basic rule put in place was that up to 50% of Social Security benefits could be added to taxable income, if the taxpayer’s total income exceeded certain thresholds. The taxation of benefits was a proposal which came from the Greenspan Commission appointed by President Reagan and chaired by Alan Greenspan (who went on to later become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve).
  • The Social Security number (SSN) was created in 1936 for the sole purpose of tracking the earnings histories of U.S. workers, for use in determining Social Security benefit entitlement and computing benefit levels. Since then, use of the SSN has expanded substantially. Today the SSN may be the most commonly used numbering system in the United States. As of December 2008, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had issued over 450 million original SSNs, and nearly every legal resident of the United States had one. The SSN‘s very universality has led to its adoption throughout government and the private sector as a chief means of identifying and gathering information about an individual. (https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v69n2/v69n2p55.html)
  • 001-01-0001, the lowest number ever issued was given to Grace D. Owen from Concord, N.H.
  • More than 40,000 people have tried to use the social security number 078-05-1120. It’s the number issued to Hilda Schrader Whitcher, who was a secretary at a wallet manufacturing company in Lockport, N.Y. A vice president at the company decided to illustrate their wallets’ utility by using a sample Social Security card. (Not a bad idea, as it was 1938, and Social Security cards were pretty new.) However, unlike the fake cardboard iPhones and Kindles used to show how that Hello Kitty case fits on your device, the fake card in the wallet contained Hilda’s real Social Security number. And it was for sale at Woolworth’s and other department stores across the country. Over time, the SSA had to straighten out more than 40,000 incorrect earnings reports attributed to Hilda’s number, some as recent as 1977.
  • According to the SSA, in June of 2015, there were 39.5 million retired American workers collecting a total of $53 billion in Social Security income for that month. This doesn’t take into account the number of dependents, disabled workers, and survivors that are also collecting income under Social Security.

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