Social Security Benefits: A Brief Look

“We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Statement on
Signing the Social Security Act (Aug. 14, 1935).

The federal government provides benefits under two separate programs administered by SSA. The older program, known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (OASDI), was originally proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and passed by Congress in 1935. At
first, benefits were available only for retired workers. Through amendments made in 1956 and 1960, Congress expanded the program to provide benefits to workers who become disabled before retirement and to their dependents, called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD). OASDI is for individuals who have worked or for their family members. The benefit amount depends on how much a wage earner paid into the Social Security system.

Congress created the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program in 1972 (The program came into effect in October, 1974)to provide benefits to a separate and more vulnerable group—needy individuals unable to work as a result of disability or advanced age. SSI is for individuals who are disabled or elderly, have little or no work experience, and who are very poor. Their benefit amount is fixed. To qualify for SSI, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and a married couple must have less than $3,000.

As of December 2005, there were 48.4 million OASDI recipients,10 and, as of March 2007, there were 7 million SSI recipients. Access to benefits is especially important to SSI recipients because more than
half of them have no other income.

Sources: (1)See Social Security Online: The Official Website of the U.S. Social Security Administration, Historical Background and Development of Social Security, March 2003,
(2) Office of Policy, U.S. Social Security Administration, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2006, available at … asdi.html.
(3) Office of Policy, U.S. Social Security Administration, SSI Monthly Statistics, March 2007, available at … le02.html.
(4) Office of Policy, U.S. Social Security Administration, SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2004, available at … ndex.html.