On August 14, 1935 at 3:30 p.m., President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law one of the most consequential bills in the nation’s history, putting in place a set of programs to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

Eighty-seven years later, the 1935 Social Security Act has maintained its status as a critical part of the country’s social safety net.

According to the history section of the Social Security Administration website, the idea for the law was based on a century-old European tradition of social welfare. Inspired by this approach, Roosevelt worked with Congress to ensure the legislation included programs benefiting multiple groups in need. These included:

  • An old-age pension program
  • Unemployment insurance funded by employers
  • Health insurance for people in financial distress
  • Financial assistance for widows with children
  • Financial assistance for disabled individuals

Today, more than 65 million people receive Social Security benefits each month. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that more than 8 million people receive disabled worker benefits while 7.6 million receive Supplemental Security Income.

Happy birthday to Social Security!