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Social Security
Supplementary Income for Older Americans
A Brief History
The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance
(OASDI) program — the official name of Social Security
— was created as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s
New Deal legislation during the Great Depression.
It was signed into law in 1935 and is now the federal
government’s largest single program.
Social Security benefits were intended to “insure the
essentials” for retired older workers by paying them a
steady, modest income. The program was designed to
be a pay-as-you-go system, which means payroll taxes
collected from workers and employers are used to fund
payments for current retirees.
Over the years, Social Security has been expanded to
include dependents and survivors of retired workers,
disabled workers, and dependents of disabled workers.
According to the 2016 Annual Report of the Board of
Trustees, in calendar year 2015, the combined OASDI
program provided $886 billion in benefits to nearly
60 million people:
Social Security is the single
largest source of retirement income
for about 61% of retirees.
Source: Social Security Administration, 2016
40 million
retired workers &
3 million
6.1 million
survivors of
8.9 million
workers &
1.9 million
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