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Safety net not understood

The March 17 letter about Social Security is incorrect, especially where it states SS was “originally intended as a publicly funded social safety net for the poor.”

I was a government attorney handling these matters. Many benefit programs are in the SS Act, but in separate parts. Being in the act does not make something “Social Security.”

“Social Security” is social welfare insurance with higher returns for lower wages (“social welfare” aspect), designed to supplement retirement savings, not to be sole support. SS disability and survivors benefits apply insurance, not welfare, concepts.

“Social safety nets” are the SSI program, administered by SSA, and joint federal-state programs administered by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many SSI recipients also receive welfare payments and qualify for food stamps and Medicaid. Most of these programs are in the act, but are not “Social Security,” even if administered by SSA.

SS and Medicare are based on qualifying “premium” payments under the FICA Act, unlike taxpayer-supported, income-based programs, the true “safety nets” for the vulnerable.

Everyone qualifies for SS and Medicare, regardless of income. In contrast, publicly funded social safety nets for the poor (SSI, food stamps, AFDC, Medicaid) are based on need.

Tom Stuber



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