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Milestones in Social Security History


For 75 years, Americans have been paying into Social Security so they can collect on their contributions when they're ready to retire. Here's a look at some key dates associated with the history of the Social Security program.

1935: Social Security is created.

1937: Social Security payroll taxes begin, and lump-sum payments begin.

1939: Social Security provides benefits to spouses, minor children and survivors of workers who die prematurely.

1940: Social Security pays out monthly benefits for the first time, drawing on workers' contributions that were made starting in 1937. Ida Mae Fuller receives the first monthly benefit from Social Security. Her check is for $22.40.

1944: Mary Thompson, a widow, is the 1 millionth beneficiary of Social Security benefits.

1950: Social Security adds the first cost of living adjustment (COLA) so benefits can keep pace with inflation.

1956: Social Security provides benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and disabled adult children. Women are permitted to retire early at age 62 with a reduced benefit.

1961: Social Security allows men to retire early, starting at age 62, with a reduced benefit.

1972: Social Security makes an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) automatic and provides a 20 percent increase in benefits.

1972: Social Security adds the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides income security for elderly, blind or disabled persons.

1972: Social Security establishes wage indexing of the initial benefit amount upon retirement, in order to ensure that benefits keep up with increases in the standard of living.

1977: To extend solvency, the government makes several changes to Social Security. For example, it raises the payroll tax and reduces benefits slightly.

1983: In response to Social Security’s financial problems, President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill reach a bipartisan agreement that puts the program on stable ground for decades. The new law delays the cost of living increase for six months; increases scheduled rates in payroll tax; adds federal employers, including members of Congress; and starts taxing a portion of Social Security benefits. It also gradually increases the retirement age from 65 to 67.

1993: The government increases the portion of benefits subject to taxation beginning in 1994.

2000: The government eliminates the Retirement Earnings Test for seniors at or above the normal retirement age, allowing seniors who continue working to receive full benefits instead of having them reduced based on earnings.

2008: Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, who is generally recognized as the first boomer, receives her first Social Security check.

2010: Social Security turns 75. The average monthly benefit is just over $1,050.

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