Today is the anniversary of a major event in Social Security history.
On January 31, 1940, the first monthly recurring Social Security retirement check was issued, going to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont.
Born in 1874, Ida May Fuller worked as a schoolteacher before becoming a legal secretary in 1905. Never married, she worked for about three years under the Social Security program before retiring in 1939 and starting her Social Security retirement at age 65 in January 1940.
She was the first beneficiary of recurring monthly Social Security payments. Her retirement amount was $22.54 per month.
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.
Ms. 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 her.
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 10 years later with the 1950 Amendments that Congress first legislated an increase in benefits. Automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) did not begin until 1975.
Ms. Fuller lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1975 with a secure place in Social Security history.
Here is a photo of Ms. Fuller from October 1950, when the first cost-of-living adjustment was received.
Ms. Fuller received the first monthly Social Security retirement check but not the first SSA payment. More about this next week.