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Key Dates in the History of Social Security

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. Social Security taxes were first collected in January 1937, with workers and employers each paying one percent of the first $3,000 in wages and salary.

In 1939 President Roosevelt signed legislation establishing benefits for survivors and dependents.

Early retirement benefits, allowing people to draw checks at age 62, were enacted in 1956 for women and in 1961 for men.

Disability payments were enacted in 1956 and initially were payable only to workers aged 50-64.

Payments to divorced wives began in 1965, and to divorced husbands in 1977.

President Nixon signed legislation in 1972 authorizing a 20 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and making the COLA automatic each year.

President Reagan signed legislation in 1983 providing for taxation of benefits, and for a gradual increase in the age of full retirement benefits to 67.

President Clinton signed legislation in 2000 eliminating the retirement earnings test for people above the full-benefit retirement age. The earnings test required beneficiaries to give up part of their Social Security benefits when they earned in excess of a certain amount. It still applies to beneficiaries below the full-benefit age.

In 2011 and 2012, a "payroll tax holiday" temporarily reduced the Social Security tax rate for workers from 6.2 to 4.2 percent. The lost revenue to the Social Security program was reimbursed from the federal government’s general revenues.

For more information on the history of Social Security, see: