The History of Benefits in America


The widespread social benefits program of America began during the Civil War. A deceased Union soldier’s widow and orphans could draw a salary as of 1982. By 1890, Union soldiers drew disability pensions, and by 1906 they received old-age pensions.

Despite that, there was no move by the Federal government to institute benefits in general society. By 1882, the Alfred Dodge Company started giving pensions to its long-time employees. However, in 1900, only five companies were doing the same.

But after the Stock Market Crash in 1929 and during the Great Depression, the eye of the Federal government was dragged towards social security. By then, the wage was the center of survival and the family was usually nuclear, making aged living difficult. By the early 1930s, it became abundantly clear that poverty in this age group was a serious problem.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt

This led to the Social Security Act of 1935 under President Franklin Roosevelt. It gave a pension to the elderly (65 years and up), funded by taxed wages. In 1939, the Act was amended to include the spouse and young children in the pension, and to give them benefits if their primary breadwinner died before retirement.

Starting 1950, Congress began to pass special legislation that would alter the pensions to take inflation into account (non-existent until that year). However, until 1975, this was not done automatically.

In 1956 (a long way from 1890), an amendment to the Social Security Act under President Eisenhower gave disability benefits, but only to workers 15 years away from their old-age pension. In 1960, however, the Act was further amended to include all disabled workers and their families.

The introduction of health insurance should be attributed to the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson and his vision of a “Great Society”. In 1965, Medicare, a complementary health insurance program to the old-age pension, and Medicaid, a health insurance program for working families who could not afford health care, were both added to the Social Security Act.

In the 1970s, structured welfare was added in the form of the Supplementary Security Income under the Social Security Act. Care for those with disabilities such as blindness, and aged persons who did not qualify for the retirement or age-old pensions, had been existing since 1935.

President Richard Nixon

The 1970s also saw automatic pension-adjustments for inflation under President Nixon. In addition, pension taxes were raised in 1972 and 1977 to make benefits sustainable without bankrupting the federal government.

The 1980s saw the beginning of hard-headed practicality in the social security program. The Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984 provided an administrative headache to the Federal government, as checks on continuing eligibility became necessary. Certain benefits for other beneficiaries began to be taxed, for more program sustainability.

The 1990s continued that trend. In 1996, addiction to drugs and alcohol became grounds for denial of disability benefits. 1997 saw benefits cut for aliens, and stricter measures on aid to disabled dependents (children). However, in 1999 a balance was struck as incentives were given to disabled workers to learn a vocation.

The latest changes are as follows. As of 2000, workers can receive retirement benefits after 70 – even if they are still working. And in 2003, Medicare was expanded to give prescription drug benefits. As the future is just as unpredictable as the past was, if you’ve stumbled across this site trying to find information regarding Social Security disability claims, and you’ve been rejected, consult an attorney, like those at the Parmele Law Firm, who specialize in Social Security disability claims.