Social Security: The Foundation of Economic Security

March 21, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: August 19, 2021

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Social Security in 1935, he saw the program as a fundamental way to advance economic fairness and social justice. Social Security has grown and improved to fulfill FDR’s vision, and we have just completed a year celebrating the 80th anniversary of this important program.

Today, Social Security’s insurance protection is the foundation of retirement security for almost all American workers and families. The average Social Security benefit is modest – about $1,340 a month – yet this benefit is the main income for most seniors. For two in three seniors who receive it, Social Security is more than half of their total income. That includes one in three where it makes up all or almost all of their income. Social Security is especially important for communities of color, women, and other vulnerable groups.

At the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America conference on March 23, I will be honored to share vital information about “The State of Seniors in Poverty,” along with the distinguished Kathy Greenlee of the Administration for Community Living.

For example, many people know that 10 percent of seniors, or 4.6 million individuals, live in poverty. Yet many don’t know just how important Social Security is in preventing seniors from falling into poverty. If today’s seniors had to rely on only their income from sources other than Social Security, fully 4 in 10 would be poor. Social Security is our nation’s most effective poverty prevention program; its retirement, disability, and survivor benefits keep 21 million Americans out of poverty, including 14 million seniors. So, keeping Social Security strong is one of the best ways that we, as a nation, can address senior poverty and promote economic security for all.

“But,” you might ask, “what about the future of Social Security?” Actually, Social Security’s finances are far stronger than many people realize. The program as a whole is sufficiently funded until 2034, and after that, it is about three-quarters fully financed. This is a good time to begin a national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong for the very long term – and there are many options available to lawmakers. According to recent public opinion research, including studies conducted by the Pew Research Center and the National Academy of Social Insurance, Americans understand Social Security’s enduring value and support preserving benefits for future generations.

Social Security has had a very successful first 80 years, and I am confident about its long-term future. We at the Social Security Administration look forward to the next 80 years, and beyond, of continuing to serve the American people and building on FDR’s vision of promoting economic security and fairness for the American people.

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About the Author

Virginia P. Reno, Deputy Commissioner, Retirement and Disability Policy

Virginia P. Reno, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration


  1. Evelyn

    I sent an email question on April 18. There is no way I can find an answer. The comments sections are scattered throughout the newsletter and are not even grouped according to date. . There should he a way to list locations of comments at the beginning of the Newsletter according to date at least. I am exhausted trying to locate my email.

  2. Virginia M.

    I am living by myself i no longer work I being worked since 1972 to 2016 I am 60 years old I have no income Comming in can i get help l fell at my job I don’t see very good have bad circulation on both legs can not stand to long I have DVT I don’t feel nothing on my right side of my body I feel both legs burning from the bottom of my feet I have a hernia Disco could you please help me

    • Ray F.

      Hi Virginia, the Social Security Act sets out a strict definition for disability. We pay disability benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. However, if a person thinks that he or she meets our definition of disability, we encourage them to apply for disability benefits when they become disabled. You may also be eligible to receive additional assistance from the state where you live. These services include Medicaid, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office. You can also visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this information helps.

  3. Tina Y.

    Is there any validity to a possible monetary windfall available for eligible Social Security benefits recipients IF they meet certain requirements prior to May 1, 2016 AND are age 60 or over?

  4. juanita e.


    • Jenna Y.

      Hi Juanita. The length of time it takes to begin receiving payments after receiving a favorable decision in a hearing varies. Approved claims are randomly selected for a quality assurance review of the decision. We care about our customers and are working as fast as we can. For security reasons, we do not have access to information about your account in this venue. In your situation, we encourage you to contact your local office or call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and speak to one of our representatives. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7:00a.m. and 7:00p.m. We hope this information is helpful.

    • Retired

      Hey, Juanita don’t shout.

  5. Nick

    National Debt of $19,000,000,000,000 = Zero Security of any kind!!

  6. Joe

    My issue is being taxed of s/s and say my wife passes away and I retire and start collecting my s/s and I pass with in the year, why doesn’t the unused amount of s/s I and my employer put in go to my children? I hear it’s money lost. Is this called the American way the govt rapes the s/s service? Something needs to change. Thank you for letting me vent.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Joe, children can receive benefits if one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. For more information read our publication “Benefits for Children”.

  7. mike h.

    Solvent system, you have to be kidding? Must be why you just screwed anyone under 66 out of millions by reducing the ability to file and suspend. Life insurance companies would have did a much better job of handling this money, next you will tell me Bernie Sanders is taking over handling our money

  8. Clarence

    I recommend changing the Presidential Election Campaign box on the IRS Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ to the Social Security Solvency box and donating the $3/$6 to Social Security . There’s way to much money from special interest groups, lobbyists and Super PACS going to election campaigns these days to warrant having the Presidential Election Campaign box any longer. It doesn’t need shoring up.

    If the stubborn politicians try to derail that then just add a box asking taxpayers to contribute $1 or more to the Social Security Fund when filling their taxes.

    • prof e.

      great idea

    • Retired

      That makes sense, but they won’t do it.

  9. Barron

    I am a wife who has worked off and on, mostly in
    my husband’s business doing clerical work. I was unaware
    that tax forms being filled out were not filed, and all the
    debt had been transferred to my name as I had been put
    on as president.
    When I discovered this about 5 months ago I contacted the IRS and the state right away. Too summarize, I have all
    his debts, and no social security benefits. Very scared.

  10. EDWARD A.

    I have the same Question as above ?
    Will my social security Benefits have any changes after May 1, 2016 ? Please let me know there is any changes.
    Thanks ! As a retired Tsgt i servred in the US Air Force
    for 21 years. We paid our Social Security tax every month, now its being change ,What Give’s? The people on the hill does not care about senior citizens , all the veterans that paid dues .

    • Ray F.

      Hello Edward. Section 831 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, made some changes to Social Security’s laws about claiming retirement and spousal benefits. The new law applies to individuals who request a suspension on or after April 30, 2016.
      See “What do the Recent Social Security Claiming Changes Mean for Me” for more information.

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