During the 1930s, there was growing concern about how the elderly could take care of themselves when they became unemployed, sick, or disabled. In 1933, 66-year-old Dr. Francis Townsend of Long Beach, California became unemployed. He had no savings or a pension, and he had no employment prospects. To help other elderly individuals who were in a similar situation, he created the Townsend Old Age Revolving Pension Plan.
The idea of this plan was to provide the elderly with a $200 a month pension that would be funded by a two percent national sales tax. Through a nationwide grassroots advocacy effort, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935, which was based on the proposals laid out in the Townsend Plan. This Act created the independent Social Security Board, which later became a part of the sub-cabinet level Federal Security Agency. In 1946, the SSB became the Social Security Administration, and in 1995, the SSA regained its independent status.
Eligibility to receive Social Security benefits begins when you start working and paying Social Security taxes through automatic payroll deductions. You earn credits through these deductions. Once you earn a minimum of 40-lifetime credits or turn 62 years of age, then you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Full Social Security benefits begin when you retire at age 67. Other Social Security benefits include survivor benefits, spousal benefits, and disability benefits. You can check to see which benefits you are eligible for through Social Security’s Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool.
Once you find out which Social Security benefits you are eligible to receive, then you can go to the Social Security Administration’s website and apply online. You can also get a replacement Social Security card, get your Social Security statements, estimate your future benefits, see if you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income, and more. You can also apply over the phone at 1-800-772-1213 or go to your local Social Security offices near you and apply in person. Be sure to make an appointment if you want to apply in person and look at the information checklist so that you have the information you need to apply for benefits.