Social Security Act

1 January 2017

The Social Security Act of 1935, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, created a program that included social insurance programs, as well as public assistance. Both programs came about due to the depression and were created as part of the New Deal to benefit the citizens who needed assistance. While both programs were created to assist the public, each program had different eligibility requirements and accomplished different tasks. Social insurance programs were designed to provide continuing income to citizens over 65 after retirement, health benefits and provide benefits for the unemployed, survivors and disabled.

Social insurance programs are non-means tested, work based and incorporate a large number of people while public assistance programs are small scale and means tested (Nelson Reid, personal communication, November 2010). Social insurance is composed of four components Old-Age and Survivor Insurance (OSAI), Federal Disability Insurance (DI), Federal Hospital Insurance (HI), and Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI). “The HI and SMI programs make up what is known as Medicare” (D.

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Eitzen & G. Sage, 2007).

According to Eitzen and Sage, disability benefits were added in 1954 and provided benefits to the disabled and their dependents. The opposition to social insurance comes from a conservative point of view. Conservatives do not like the idea of the federal government serving as a “broker”. Conservatives feel that the government has no business in the planning of retirement (D. Eitzen & G. Sage, 2007). Conservatives want privatization of social security and the government to refrain from taking money out of their checks.

In contrast, public assistance programs were created to assist Americans who meet a certain financial eligibility standards. According to the text, there are three major public assistance programs including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income, and General Assistance (J. Marx, 2004). TANF, formerly known as, Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) was created in 1936, as a program to provide cash assistance to low- income families with children under sixteen.

In the 1960’s the ADC ballooned into Aid to Dependent Families and Children allowing the stipend to increase to involve the caregiver. The Families used ADFC income to pay for expenses such as rent, utilities, food and other needs (hhs. state. ne. us,2009). ADFC discouraged marriage, pursuing a job which created a dependency on the program. By 1996, TANF was created to replace ADFC and created caps on the system. TANF is public assistance that requires participants to maintain a job and they can only receive benefits for a total of five years.

People who qualify for TANF fall under the public’s eye as having a worthiness problem (N. Reid, personal communication, November, 2010). People tend to judge recipients of TANF creating harsh criticism about the program. Another program was Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program it was established to provide a minimum income for the disabled, blind and older Americans. This program works to help recipients with vocational skills therefore they can seek work opportunities. This is one of the least criticized programs by the public because the recipients are physically “worthy” of their benefits (J.

Marx, 2004). The last major public assistance program is General Assistance which is a program that provides help for people who do not qualify for other areas of federal assistance. Each state has their own requirements for eligibility for general assistance services. This program is used as a “safety net” to help the people who are in need (J. Marx, 2004). Social Security is seen as one of the most successful government program in American history (D. Eitzen & G. Sage, 2007) Major differences between social insurance and public assistance is the eligibility and public criticisms.

Social insurance program eligibility is defined by recipients’ statute while, public assistance programs are based on financial eligibility requirements. The public also judges people who are receiving public assistance on their worthiness while people who receive social insurance benefits seem to have public support for increasing their benefits.

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Social Security Act. (2017, Jan 26). Retrieved May 24, 2019, from
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