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Joseph Robinson Jr., Live Black ... Retire Poor ... Die Early: How Social Security as an Institution Continues to Perpetuate the Social Racism of the 1930s, 24 Elder Law Journal 487 (2017) (202 Footnotes Omitted) 


*488 “If the Senate and the House of Representatives in their long and arduous session had done nothing more than pass this bill, [Social Security Act of 1935] the session would be regarded as historic for all time.” ~President Franklin Delano Roosevel


JosephRobinsonWhen President Franklin Delano Roosevelt uttered these words at the signing of the Social Security Act of 1935, he was just speculating that the program would have a lasting impact on American culture. President Roosevelt hoped that the program would serve as the cornerstone of his economic relief program in the wake of the greatest economic decline the nation had ever seen. Assembled in a room full of cameras, the President proclaimed that, as the nation has industrialized, people have faced greater insecurity citing the new legislation as providing security to 30,000,000 citizens who “will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.” The question still remains today, has the Social Security Act of 1935 provided security for all?

This Note will focus on the Social Security Act of 1935 enacted by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. The particular focus of this Note will be an evaluation of the current state of the Social Security Administration benefits disbursement policy. The Social Security Administration has faced claims that its benefits disbursement policy has a disparate impact on racial minorities because of shorter life spans, compared to whites who have traditionally enjoyed longer lifespans. The resulting difference in lifespans spells out a higher total yield on investment for those who live longer. This Note recommends ways by which, if present, the Social Security Administration can adjust its benefits disbursement policy to remedy the disparate impact on racial minorities and ensure all Americans have equal access to the benefits bestowed by the Social Security Act of 1935.

*489 This Note proceeds in four parts. Part II frames the historical context and social climate of the period that ultimately led President Roosevelt to sign into law the Social Security Act of 1935. Furthermore, Part II suggests that the contemporary version of the Act suffers from the social climate of the past through specific provisions that intentionally kept minorities from participating in the Act from the start. Part III will look at disbursement trends over time, to ultimately conclude that there is currently a disparate impact among minorities who are eligible and receive Social Security benefits. Additionally, Part III will use the current framework employed by the Supreme Court to evaluate the likelihood of a disparate impact claim. Lastly, Part IV will provide recommendations for administrative policy changes that can alleviate the disparate impact and remove the institutional inequality currently present in the administration's present-day disbursement policy.