The Social Security Administration was enacted by an act of Congress in 1935, in the depths of the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration was hard at work trying to help the U.S. recover economically through a number of social and financial programs. One area that required attention was that of old age pensions. Older Americans were at significant risk of disaster during the Depression, and previously the only old age pensions were available from some state and local governments. Many of those pension programs were faltering or had collapsed, and Congress was under pressure from the Administration and from the public to take action.
The Social Security Act of 1935 established a national program for Americans over the age of 65 to receive benefits and set up the structure and criteria for participation of those people in the workforce and their employers to contribute to their retirement security. The program would not begin for some time and credit would not be given for any work prior to 1937.
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