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How Social Security works: Nuts and bolts of the benefits program

How Social Security works
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How Social Security works | FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

How Social Security works

In 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, creating an insurance program to protect American workers from dire poverty in old age. It has since become a significant thread in the fabric of the national economy. In 2015, more than 59 million Americans -- or about 18.3% of the population -- received close to $870 billion in Social Security benefits.

Over time, amendments to that original act expanded Social Security to include benefits for disabled workers as well as dependents and survivors of the insured. Later, in 1965, Medicare health insurance for older Americans was added to the package.

In spite of these changes, however, the way Social Security works has remained fundamentally consistent throughout its history.

Read on to learn about the nuts and bolts of how Social Security works.

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