Chris DeWald | I’ve stroked, now what? (Part III)

I learned a little more today from doing research on Social Security. According to www.ssa.gov, Social Security as we know it did not really arrive in America until 1935. There was, however, one important precursor which offered something we could recognize as a social security program, yet only available to one certain segment of the American population.

Following the Civil War, there were hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans, and hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans. In fact, immediately following the Civil War a much higher proportion of the population was disabled or survivors of deceased breadwinners than at any time in America’s history. This led to the development of a generous pension program, with interesting similarities to later developments in Social Security. (the first national pension program for soldiers was actually passed in early 1776, prior even to the signing of the Declaration of Independence). Throughout America’s ante-bellum period pensions of limited types were paid to veterans of America’s various wars. But it was with the creation of Civil War pensions that a full-fledged pension system developed in America for the first time.

The Civil War Pension program began shortly after the start of the War, with the first legislation in 1862 providing for benefits linked to disabilities “incurred as a direct consequence of . . .military duty.” Widows and orphans could receive pensions equal in amount to that which would have been payable to their deceased soldier if he had been disabled. In 1890 the link with service-connected disability was broken, and any disabled Civil War veteran qualified for benefits. In 1906, old-age was made a sufficient qualification for benefits. By 1910, Civil War veterans and their survivors enjoyed a program of disability, survivors and old-age benefits similar in some ways to the later Social Security programs. Over 90% of the remaining Civil War veterans were receiving benefits under this program, although they constituted barely 6% of the total U.S. population of that era. Civil War pensions were also an asset that attracted young wives to elderly veterans whose pensions they could inherit as the widow of a war veteran. Indeed, there were still surviving widows of Civil War veterans receiving Civil War pensions as late as 1999!

In the aggregate, military pensions were an important source of economic security in the early years of the nation. In 1893, for example, the $165 million spent on military pensions was the largest single expenditure ever made by the federal government. In 1894 military pensions accounted for 37% of the entire federal budget.

www.ssa.gov/history/puck.html

These figures based on the federal budget exaggerate the role of military pensions in providing overall economic security since the federal government’s share of the economy was much smaller in earlier times. Also, there were features of the system which meant that many veterans did not receive any benefits. For example, former Confederate soldiers and their families were barred from receiving Civil War pensions. So in 1910 the per capita average military pension expenditure for residents of Ohio was $3.36 and for Indiana it was $3.90. By contrast, the per capita average for the Southern states was less than 50 cents (it was 17 cents in South Carolina).

Despite the fact that America had a “social security” program in the form of Civil War pensions since 1862, this precedent did not extend itself to the general society. The expansion of these types of benefit programs to the general population, under Social Security, would have to await additional social and historical developments.

Whoaaaa cowboy, did I just read Confederate Soldiers were barred from receiving Civil War Pensions? See, that was a complete newsflash for me.

  

The Social Security Act

In early January 1935, the CES made its report to President Roosevelt, and on January 17 the President introduced the report to both Houses of Congress for simultaneous consideration. Hearings were held in the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee during January and February. Some provisions made it through the Committees in close votes, but the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly in the floor votes. After a Conference which lasted throughout July, the bill was finally passed and sent to President Roosevelt for his signature.

The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. (Full Text of President Roosevelt’s Statement At Bill Signing Ceremony.)

 

Disability

The Social Security Amendments of 1954 initiated a disability insurance program which provided the public with additional coverage against economic insecurity. At first, there was a disability “freeze”, (here being signed by President Eisenhower) of a worker’s Social Security record during the years when they were unable to work. (First application for disability freeze being filed.) While this measure offered no cash benefits, it did prevent such periods of disability from reducing or wiping out retirement and survivor benefits. On August 1, 1956, the Social Security Act was amended to provide benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and disabled adult children. In September 1960 President Eisenhower signed a law amending the disability rules to permit payment of benefits to disabled workers of any age and to their dependents. By 1960, 559,000 people were receiving disability benefits, with the average benefit amount being around $80 per month.

Please go to www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html for more information on all information concerning the history of Social Security. The information provided to you above was taken from that site.

Now onto disability, here is the website: www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/.

Now here we go people. Do you have 6 months of funds banked up in case you become disabled? http://www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dapproval.htm. It takes that long

before you receive your first check, should you be approved. Did I say approved? What if you are not approved, would you have the funds to exist? I was “Superman”, remember? Nothing was going to touch me! WRONG!!!!! Doctor bills, oxygen, blood tests, household, mortgage, food, gas, taxes, insurance….. and I could keep on going.

Now a horror story. I know a man very well who applied for disability when he had a stroke. His left side was gone. He could not feel anything in his left hand or leg. He slurred and could hardly move. His initial application for Social Security was denied; their response indicated that he could work in “fast food”! Imagine this man using a fryer or knives, operating a cash register or counting out money, handing food out thru the window to customers! It was not a possibility, yet that was their response. This could be you. This WAS me! I held my ground, and finally gained approval.

There are many horror stories on the internet about Social Security Disability. Here are some stroke related stories: www.strokeboard.net/index.php?showtopic=13038.

So now you can educate yourself about things that can easily happen to you – they happen every day. Educate yourselves, your friends, your family. Consider investing in a long- term disability plan. Remember, knowledge is power!

Next week’s chapter: “Life after a stroke.”

 

– Column by Chris DeWald

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