Gwen Graham: Happy 80th birthday, Social Security

In North Florida, we know the value of hard work. I’ve seen it on my work days: from my first one with a young entrepreneur, to a recent day working alongside oystermen with sore backs and blistered hands.

We work all our lives to make money, feed our families and accomplish something – and we’re able to take risks, succeed and prosper because we know there’s a Social Security safety net to help us when we retire.

We’ve come to rely on it as part of our social fabric, but 80 years ago on Aug. 14, 1935, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, there was no safety net to rely on.

America was rapidly changing at the time. We were becoming older and more urban, and the traditional sources of economic security were vanishing.

When we entered the Great Depression, the stock market crash and bank failures wiped out retirement savings and more than half of America’s seniors fell into poverty.

It became clear we needed a national solution to help them, and the first monthly Social Security payment was issued in 1940 to Ida May Fuller for $22.52. Since the program began, the poverty rate among seniors has plummeted from more than 50 percent to less than 10 percent today.

More than 135,939 people in the 2nd Congressional District rely on the program, which is why I’ve made constituent services one of my office’s top priorities.

As long as there’s been government, there’s unfortunately been bureaucratic red tape. But my office and I are ready to help you cut through it to receive the benefits you’ve earned.

An example I love to share is how we helped Sally Sparks, who works for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. When Sally was young, her father passed away and she received his Social Security benefits for a brief time. Well, more than 35 years later, the government contacted Sally demanding she pay more than $15,000 they alleged she was overpaid back in 1979.

After many phone calls, forms and no real answers, Sally reached out to our office for help. We quickly responded to her and took immediate action to resolve the problem.

Much to Sally’s amazement, we found out not only was the government wrong about Sally owing them money, the Social Security Administration actually owed her money! They corrected the error and sent her a check for $184.

Sally is just one example of the many constituents we’re able to help with Social Security, Medicare and Veterans Benefits. Since taking office in January, we’ve returned more than $400,000 from Washington back to North Florida constituents. Although our help remains private, Sally hopes telling her story will help others get assistance.

You’ve paid into Medicare and Social Security all your life, and I’m dedicated to making sure the government lives up to its end of the bargain.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee represents Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Guest Author


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