The national debate about society and it’s future rages on and continues to be a point of interest and discussion in the United States from the floors of Congress to the corner coffee shop. In recent years social security has been used as a campaign tool and a fear device to persuade citizens to get out and vote. Social security benefits is one of the defining characteristics of a civilized nation. Unfortunately, there are people who are simply unaware of the benefits offered and who is entitled to these national benefits. My grandparents, like other immigrants, were unaware of the governmental aid given to working Americans in the United States. They lived, worked, and contributed to the United States for over tens years.They worked hard, and paid their taxes, and grew old. Due to the onset of old age and medical problems both my grandparents spent a good part of their last two years in the hospital suffering from severe heart disease. This debilitating heart condition forced frequent ambulance calls and demanded mandatory exams and surgeries. My parents, who lived in X during this time, were also unaware of the national social security benefits my grandparents were entitled too. They were forced to pay for the enormous medical bills which created not only financial but emotional hardship for my family. As I grew older I understood that my grandparents could have received many types of benefits if we had researched and been full educated about the social security benefits available to us.There are millions of Americans receiving Social Security benefits and the people who pay taxes in this nation should know which benefits they qualify for. The Social Security program, in the United States, has been extremely successful. Many people know what the Social Security is, but not specific details that can apply to their lives. I would like to explore the history and evolution of social security, how the current system works, and the benefits that are available to all Americans. Do you know where social security started and how it has developed into the system we know today? Do you know what kind of Social Security benefits the government offers? And how they work? Are you eligible for these benefits? I wanted to research these essential questions about Social Security benefits because sooner or later my parents and I are going to receive them.
Section Two: Research
I started my research at the Barnes and Noble store. There were tons of books that provided a great deal of information about social security. These books helped me find direction in my research. Among the others, a couple of the books that were very helpful for my research were Social Security Benefits Handbook and Nolo’s Guide to Social Security. Which suggested that I locate the Social Security home page on the internet. It was here that I found most updated information about society security. I found the address to my local Social Security Administration (SSA) and decided to take a trip there in hopes of finding an interview. I went to branch office of SSA at West Sacramento. I went there around ten o’clock in the morning, but there was a long line and plenty of unhappy people waiting for the services. After couple hours, I talked to a customer service representative. I kindly asked for an interview regarding the benefits but I was told it was impossible to get one at the time. Instead, she gave me a toll free number where I could call for questions and answers. When I got out of the office, I caught an old lady who seemed very angry. She kept murmuring about why she is not qualified for medical insurance. Instantly, I was very curious what the requirements were for the medical insurance and any other benefits.As soon as I came home, I called the number that I got from the SSA. They were also busy with customers. I had to wait at least 30 minutes every time I called. Finally, I managed to talk to a customer representative named Sandy. She gave me some information but was obviously overworked and possible annoyed by my questions. Unfortunately, I did not get much information from her; instead she wanted me to check out the internet to look for my answers. I did not receive enough information from the phone call that I made to SSA. My experience with talking to customer representative at SSA was very dissatisfying. My next course of action was to head to the library where I found and read a number of books and journal articles about the history of social security and it’s benefits.
Section Three: What I Discovered
The term social security as used in America today refers to a social insurance program officially established in 1935. This program is funded by a tax on the payroll of all working citizens in the United States. “The benefits they receive are strictly a function of formulas that, while based on their wage history, do not in the end need to relate in any tangible way to contributions made”(Blahous, and Simpson 26). The social security program can be broken down into three parts: Retirement benefits, disability, and survivor benefits. Retirement benefits are available for people of the age of 62 and retired. The amount of the monthly stipend is dependent on how much that particular person has made in his or her lifetime. Disability is available to workers who have been incapacitated either physically or emotionally and are unable to work. Survivor benefits are given to the spouse and children of a deceased individual. The current social security program is the product of several decades of American legislature framed by centuries worth of unofficial social programs enacted by individual citizens. “In most welfare States the aged constitute nearly 15 per cent of the total population. This increase in the proportion of older people means that it is imperative that we have a comprehensive and adequate income maintenance system for them and also that we provide properly for their increased health care needs” (Adler 74). Currently, there are more than forty seven million people who are receiving some kind of Social Security benefit; it is about one out of every six Americans.
The Birth of Economic Security
Concern for economic security is an universal and timeless problem that has been addressed throughout time. These concerns started being addressed by society as far back as the ancient Greeks who would stock pile and store olive oil. Olive oil was very nutritious and could be stored for long periods. In times of economic need olive could be used for food or to barter for services and products. In medieval Europe, the feudal lord carried the sole responsibility of the economic growth and stability of the people working his land. During this time society develops the ideas of charity and social responsibility, not just for their own families but for other in their communities (Social Security).In 16th century a new trend in economical security begins to grow in the forms of friendly societies and guilds. Craftsmen and skilled workers formed groups. These groups would regulate production, employment, and aid workers and their families during times of sickness or death. As the industrial revolution took place their was a rise in fraternal societies. These societies offered life insurance benefits to their members for the first time. In 1601 England established “Poor Laws.” This was the first official legislature that required the government to take the responsibility for it’s poor and sick citizens. Poorhouses were established and conditions were very crude. However, these laws set the framework for the United States social security systems. As the pilgrims traveled from England to the new American colonies with them they brought strong ideas about the role of the governmental responsibility in the economic security of it’s citizens (Social Security).During colonial times the poor and sick were seen and treated as undesirables. They were placed in poorhouses, forced to live in disgusting and often dangerous condition. People often had to give up property, the right to vote , and often had to wear a “P” on their clothing. Herrick and Stuart state “Poverty relief was intentionally made hard so that it encouraged people to not become dependent on the system. (121)” One of the first people to write about the idea of social security was Thomas Paine. In 1795 he wrote and passed out a pamphlet called Agrarian Justice. In it he outlines his ideas of establishing public programs to help young people start out in life and to help older people later in life. He proposed that inherited properties would be taxed 10% and that would be used to fund these programs. He believe that upon turning 21 every citizens would get a one time cash award of 15 pounds and that everyone over the age of 50 would receive an annual allowance of 10 pounds (Conlin 61).
Social Security Around the World
While the United States was still establishing itself and public debates rage over what the role and duties of their new government should be other countries were fleshing out their own social security legislature. In 1880 the Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck pressured his government to pass laws that offered sickness insurance to all the nations workers. In 1883 this law was passed as well as pension benefits in 1889. In 1927, unemployment insurance was passed into German law. The same activity can be seen in England. In 1911 the National Insurance Act created by David George was created. Also, pension benefits, and disability insurance programs were established. France in the spring of 1905 established their own unemployment insurance and soon after in 1928 created old age insurance and health insurance. The Soviet Union in 1922, and Chile in 1924 followed by adopting their own social security programs. Fifty four countries had already established social security programs before the United States established theirs. It isn’t until 1935, during the New Deal, under Roosevelt’s socially conscious eye was American’s social security program established and signed into law (Social Security).
Social Security in the United States
Thomas N. Bethell, in his 2005 article Roosevelt Redux: Robert M. Ball and the Battle for Social Security, states “social security is in serious trouble” (Bethell). The Social Security Act created two levels of social security: Federal-state unemployment and federal retirement benefits. Robert Eisner explains “this act also created federally available grants to all states to help take care of children, the poor, and disabled at a state level“(57). Social security programs in the United States have seen undergone a number of changes including: 1939 survivors benefits, 1950 benefits to all full time farm and domestic workers, 1957 benefits for disabled people over 50. Medicare which is health insurance for retirees, and Medicaid health insurance for the disabled of any age were created in the early 1960s (Eisner 52). Social Security has changed drastically:Although the primary, function of the Social Security program continued to be replacement of income from work due to retirement, over time the program expanded to include benefits for spouses, survivors, and the disabled. These programmatic changes meant that the Social Security benefits were no longer linked just to an individual’s own earnings history but also to his or her marriage history and spouse’s earnings history (Butrica, Iams, and Smith).The SSA compensates $39.7 billion each month to 47 million people throughout United States. There are almost 155 million covered workers every each year. Every each beneficiary worker is receiving a check monthly, and there are about 3.4 workers paying taxes. Employers and the workers pay about five hundred billion dollars to the government for social security taxes annually. The SSA has many district and branch offices. There are over 1300 district and branch offices throughout the nation. There are many diverse branches to perform all of its duties. Most of the applications are processed through the local district office. (Eisner 67).The United States was a latecomer in developing and enacting social security benefits into law. And just as the US was late passing the laws they are falling behind other countries in resolving the problems within the social security program. “Congress tends not to take on difficult decisions until it is near crisis or at least until the American people understand and appreciate and encourage taking it on”(Roman 3).Currently over 20 countries have reformed their social security programs by establishing personal retirement accounts, most recently Germany. America can learn what needs to be done by studying what other countries have done can . Many countries have enacted mandatory savings accounts as part of their social security systems. Allowing citizens to invest in the private sector with their personal retirement accounts has led to a financially rewarding experience as well as an increase for the national economy. Regardless of the reform it is certainly true that US needs to reshape social security so that it benefits all of it’s citizens to the fullest extent.The system is extremely complicated and a great deal of rules and laws which change regularly. There are many people who fail to receive benefits because they are not educated about what they are entitled to. Social Security benefits provide under basic programs which are known as Retirement Insurance, Medicare, Disability Insurance (RSDI), Health Insurance, and Survivors insurance. Social Security benefits are based on the earnings of covered workers. In order to receive Social Security benefits workers must meet specific eligibility requirements. One of the benefits that people want to receive is the Retirement Benefits.If you have worked pass your retirement age, which is sixty-two, and have enough work time covered by Social Security, which means that you have worked for at least ten years, you are eligible to the Retirement benefits. Stanley Tomkiel, in The Social Security Benefits, asserts that “the amounts of benefits vary greatly depending on the work record. In 2004, the amount of low average earnings that may yield a Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) was $271, and the maximum average earnings resulted in a PIA of $1784.(101)”. He continues that PIA is used to “calculate benefit amounts that is based on the earnings of the worker” (102).Another benefit that most people have heard of but know little about is the Medicare. How does it actually work? Medicare is the basic health insurance program for people who turned age 65 or older. If you receive Social Security disability benefits for more than twenty four months, you may also qualify for Medicare. David Morton, in Nolo’s Guide to Social Security Disability, explains that “Medicare is divided into two parts which are Hospital Insurance and Medical Insurance.Hospital Insurance pays for four basics areas of medical care: In-patient care in a hospital, medically necessary patient care in a skilled nursing facility immediately, home health care, and hospice care” (45). Medical Insurance covers the following: doctor’s services, both in his or her office and in the hospital, out-patient hospital care, out-patient physical and speech therapy, home health care, ambulances, and medically necessary durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs. You can also choose different health plans from the Medicare. You are able to select options from either “original Medicare Plan, or fee-for service plan” (Morton 50). Some plans may offer additional benefits, such as prescription drugs.Social Security benefits also pay the children of retired workers. If a child’s age is less than eighteen, he or she may receive the benefits. These benefits help the children to finish school until they turn nineteen. If you become disabled before you reach age of 22, you are also eligible to these benefits. Another interesting piece of information I read was that even the grandchildren are eligible for the benefits if their parents died or are totally disabled at the time the worker became eligible for benefits (Tomkiel 145). Most common benefit amount for the children entitled is 50% of the primary insurance amount. The Primary insurance amount (PIA) is used to calculate benefit amounts. It is based on their earnings and status (Tomkiel 150).There is Social Security benefits for disability people who cannot work because of a mental or physical condition, but it must be medically proved. The law defines disability as “the inability to do any kind of substantial gainful activity for a continuous period of at least one year, or as an impairment that may result in death.” (Social Security benefits, Section 502) There are two different programs of disability benefits. If you qualify as disabled under the Social Security Act, the Social Security Administration establishes the payments either one of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security income (SSI).Under the SSDI, the worker and certain dependents that have worked for many years and made contributions to the Social Security trust fund through the Social Security tax. You might pay for the retroactive disability benefits, if you can prove that you were disabled in past. Even you’re non-citizen or permanent residents of the United States, you could be entitled to SSDI while they reside abroad, but it is depending on their citizenship status and which countries you live in.There is another disability program that called “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes payments to disabled worker who has limited income and resources. To receive for SSI, your monthly income is no more than the federal benefit rate (FBR) which is set by the law” (Morton 57). Morton explains that “In 2006, the FBR is raised by a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 4.1%. The monthly payment depends on whether you are single or married and which states you live in. You also have been totally disabled for at least five months” (60).You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If you are entitled to a disability benefit and are also entitled Workers’ Compensation. Tomkiel offers the following example of how to calculate your coverage. These benefits that you receive per month are no more than 80% of your average current earnings (ACE). SSA determines the ACE by the gross amount of your prior earnings in any five consecutive calendar years. For example, if the average current earnings are $100.00 per month, 80% is $800.00. Therefore, your total amount of benefits is $800.00 per month. It is uncommonly that the total amount of benefits exceeds 80% of average current earnings. The disability benefits will remain until the SSA terminates the benefits due to the worker is no longer totally disabled (156).There are much more Social Security benefits that many people do not know about. We just have to keep researching and try to keep up to date. You can put an application as much as you want. There are various ways to file the claims, such as telephone services, online, and visits in local offices.There are many benefits that you could receive from the Social Security program. Some people provide false identity information by using someone else’s Social Security numbers to receive the benefits. If you get caught by the Social Security Administration, you may prosecute for fraud. Even there was no payment made by the government on the basis of the statement. “The penalty for fraud ranges from a minimum of not more than a $500 fine, or imprisonment of one year, or both to a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for up to fifteen years, or both. Acts such as alleging you retired when you actually have not or alleging that you transferred a business to your spouse when you did not are a few examples of cases Social Security may prosecute” (Social Security benefits, Section 1411). Social Security fraud is wrong. If it is not yours, do not even think about it. It is not worth it, even though you might get the benefits.When I talked to Social Security customer representative on the phone, she gave me a good advice that I like to share. She said that “If you have doubts about your entitlement to the benefits, you should file an application. Even there is a person who is working in Social Security Administration says that you are not entitled to the benefits because you are not qualifying for the benefits, but you always should file an application. Even though the SSA deny your claim, you have right to appeal until you are satisfied.” These advices that I strongly recommend to the people who are not sure which Social Security benefits they are entitled to. If you believe that you are entitled to the benefits, you should file an application. If you are still dissatisfied with that decision, you always could request for appeals to council review and then you can review your claims through federal district court. Eventually, you can bring up to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court until you satisfy yourself.When I received a letter from the Social Security, I did not care what was on the letter. I know now that Social Security Statement which shows my earning history and an estimate of the retirement, disability and survivors benefits. Now, I check Social Security Statements very carefully and make sure all of my earnings are corrected, because the based on earnings can decide which Social Security benefits I will be entitled to me and my family. It is also helping me develop a future financial plan.;