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Social security is designed, as the title suggests, to provide
security. To protect individuals from unforeseen catastrophes,
the government spreads certain risks among all members of society
so that no single family bears the full burden of such occurrences.
In the United States, the Social Security Program was created
in 1935 (42 U.S.C. 301 et seq.) to provide old age, survivors,
and disability insurance benefits to workers and their families.
Unlike welfare, social security benefits are paid to an individual
or his or her family at least in part on the basis of that person's
employment record and prior contributions to the system. The program
is administered by the Social Secuirty Administration (SSA) and
since 1965 it has included health insurance benefits under the
Medicare program. While the original act used Social Security
in a broad sense and included federally funded welfare programs
and unemployment compensation within its scope, current usage
associates the phrase with old age, survivors, and disability
The Federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI)
pays out monthly benefits to retired people, to families whose
wage earner has died, and to workers unemployed due to sickness
or accident. Workers qualify for its protection by having been
employed for a minimum amount of time and by having made contributions
to the program. Once an individual has qualified for protection,
certain other family members are, as well. Financial need is not
While the Social Security Act (federal law) governs an applicant's
right to benefits, state substantive law governs some of the family
relationship issues that may bear on that right such as the validity
of a marriage.
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