In the early years, each issue of the Social Security Bulletin featured
an opening editorial summary of recent developments in Social Security,
entitled "Social Security In Review." The September 1939 issue
opened with a brief report on the recently-passed 1939 Amendments.
Social Security Bulletin
Volume 2 September 1939 Number 9
SOCIAL SECURITY IN REVIEW
FOLLOWING his approval of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1939,
President Roosevelt on August 11 made a public statement in which he declared
the amendments to be "another tremendous step forward in providing
greater security for the people of this country." The President commented
specifically on the changes in the old-age insurance system, expressing
his gratification that in liberalizing the provisions a reasonable relationship
had been retained between wage loss sustained and benefits received. "This,"
he declared, "is a most important distinguishing characteristic of
social insurance as contrasted with any system of flat pensions."
With regard to changes in coverage of the system, the President remarked:
"I am glad that the insurance benefits have been extended to cover
workers in some occupations that have previously not been covered. However,
workers in other occupations have been excluded. In my opinion, it is
imperative that these insurance benefits be extended to workers in all
The President also commented on other changes in the act, observing that:
"The Federal-State system of providing assistance to the needy aged,
the needy blind, and dependent children, has also been strengthened by
increasing the Federal aid. I am particularly gratified that the Federal
matching ratio to States for aid to dependent children has been increased
from one-third to one-half of the aid granted. I am also happy that greater
Federal contributions will be made for public health, maternal and child
welfare, crippled children, and vocational rehabilitation. These changes
will make still more effective the Federal State cooperative relationship
upon which the Social Security Act is based and which constitutes its
great strength. It is important to note in this connection that the increased
assistance the States will now be able to give will continue to be furnished
on the basis of individual need, thus affording the greatest degree of
protection within reasonable financial bounds."
With regard to administrative changes in the act, the President declared
that "probably the most important change that has been made is to
require that State agencies administering any part of the Social Security
Act coming within the jurisdiction of the Social Security Board and the
Children's Bureau shall set up a merit system for their employees. An
essential element of any merit system is that employees shall be selected
on a nonpolitical basis and shall function on a nonpolitical basis."
The President concluded his statement by calling attention to the work
of the Committee on Economic Security. "In 1934," he declared,
"I appointed a committee called the Committee on Economic Security
made up of Government officials to study the whole problem of economic
and social security and to develop a legislative program for the same.
The present law is the result of its deliberations. That Committee is
still in existence and has considered and recommended the present amendments.
In order to give reality and coordination to the study of any further
developments that appear necessary I am asking the Committee to continue
its life and to make active study of various proposals which may be made
for amendments or developments to the Social Security Act. The present
members of the Committee are: Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, Chairman;
Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury; Frank Murphy, Attorney
General; Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture; Harry L. Hopkins,
Secretary of Commerce. I am adding to the Committee at this time Arthur
J. Altmeyer, Chairman of the Social Security Board."
IMMEDIATELY on adoption of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1939,
the Social Security Board discontinued acceptance of claims for lump-sum
payments under the old-age insurance program from workers reaching age
65. This type of payment is terminated by the amendments, and workers
who might have been eligible to receive such payments are given opportunity
to qualify instead for monthly benefits, even though payment of the lump-sum
claim has already been made. In the latter event, however, the amount
of the lump-sum payment will be deducted from the worker's monthly benefits.
Lump-sum payments to the estates of qualified workers who die before 1940
will be continued.
In connection with the announcement of discontinuance of lump-sum payments
to workers reaching age 65, it was indicated that, on the basis of preliminary
estimates, approximately 485,000 persons past the age of 65 will be entitled
to monthly benefits in 1940 and that the benefits payable during that
year will exceed $110 million. Under the provisions of the original Social
Security Act, it was indicated, lump-sum benefits probably would not have
amounted to more than $30 million in 1940, including both payments to
workers reaching age 65 and death payments. From January 1, 1937, when
the program went into effect, through July 31, 1939, approximately 397,400
claims for lump-sum payments amounting to more than $21.5 million were
certified by the Social Security Board to the Secretary of the Treasury.