Ida May Fuller And Social Security

Today is the anniversary of a major event in Social Security history. 

On January 31, 1940, the first monthly Social Security retirement check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont, in the amount of $22.54. She was the first beneficiary of recurring monthly Social Security payments. Here is a 1950 photo of her.

Born in 1874, Ida May Fuller worked as a school teacher before becoming a legal secretary in 1905. Never married, she worked for about three years under the Social Security program before retiring in 1939. The accumulated Social Security taxes on her salary during those three years was a total of $24.75.

She started collecting benefits in January 1940 at age 65 and lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1975 with a secure place in Social Security history. During her lifetime she collected a total of $22,888.92 in Social Security benefits.

When Ida May Fuller received her first $22.54 benefit payment it would be the same monthly amount received for the next 10 years. For her, and the millions of other Social Security beneficiaries like her, the amount of that first benefit check was the amount they could expect to receive for life. It was not until the 1950 Amendments that Congress first legislated an increase in benefits. Automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) did not begin until 1975.

Final decisions on early applications for Social Security benefits were completed in Washington D.C. with benefit amounts then certified for payment by the Treasury Department. Claims were grouped in batches of 1,000 and a Certification List for each batch was sent to Treasury.

Miss Fuller’s claim was the first one on the first Certification List. As a result, the first Social Security monthly benefit, check number 00-000-001 dated January 31, 1940 was issued to Ida May Fuller, establishing her place in Social Security history.

More about the history of Social Security is at