News From Terre Haute, Indiana


January 4, 2014

SOCIAL SECURITY: Teasing your brain

TERRE HAUTE — January is International Brain Teasers Month. What better time than now to test your knowledge and learn a few things at the same time? With that in mind (pun intended), tease your brain with these bits of Social Security trivia.

Brain Teasers:

1. When was the Social Security Act signed into law, and who signed it?

2. Who received the very first Social Security check? (Careful — this may be a trick question!)

3. When did Social Security begin paying disability benefits?

4. Who received the first monthly Social Security check? (Not the same person as in question number two!)

5. When did Social Security begin paying Supplemental Security Income benefits, or SSI?

6. Is there any significance to the digits in your Social Security number — or are they just random?


1. The Social Security Act was signed into law on Aug. 14, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, we even have a picture of it at

2. The first person to receive a Social Security payment was Ernest Ackerman, but he did not receive a monthly benefit. During the start-up period of Social Security, between January 1937 and December 1939, people who paid into the system received a lump-sum payment when they retired. Ackerman got a whopping lump-sum payment of 17 cents — not bad considering he only contributed a nickel.

3. Although there were discussions about disability benefits between Congress and the White House as early as 1936, Social Security disability benefits did not become law until 1956. Learn more about disability benefits and how they can help at www.socialsecurity. gov/disability.

4. Ida May Fuller was the first person to receive a regular monthly Social Security payment. Her monthly payment was more than Ernest Ackerman’s lump sum. Beginning on Jan. 31, 1940, she received $22.54 each month. She collected benefits — with no payment increase for the first 10 years — until she passed away at age 100, in 1975.

5. Social Security began making SSI payments in 1974. SSI pays benefits to people who have low income, have limited resources, and who are 65 or older, disabled or blind. Learn more about how SSI can help at

6. Whether the digits in your Social Security Number have any meaning depends on when it was originally issued to you. Until June 2011, the first three digits were assigned based on the geographical region in which the person resided. Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving westward. So people on the east coast have the lowest numbers and those on the west coast have the highest numbers. The remaining six digits in the number are more or less random and facilitated the manual bookkeeping operations that began with the creation of Social Security in the 1930s. As of June 2011, all numbers are randomly assigned without regard to region.

Want to learn more about Social Security and the agency’s history? There’s more to enjoy on Social Security’s history page. Tease your brain at


Brian L. Hewitt is district manager at the Social Security Administration at 222 Cherry St. in Terre Haute.

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