First Social Security check: Jan. 31, 1940

A former Vermont legal secretary named Ida May Fuller becomes the first person to receive a monthly Social Security check from the U.S. government.  That first check,  stamped with the number 00-000-001, was for $22.54--or about $350 today.

A few months earlier, while running errands, Fuller had dropped by the new Social Security office in Rutland, VT. and filed her retirement claim. "It wasn't that I expected anything, mind you" she would tell an interviewer years later, "but I knew I'd been paying for something called Social Security and I wanted to ask the people in Rutland about it."

In the three years prior to her retirement, the woman known to friends as "Aunt Ida," had paid a total of $24.75 in Social Security taxes. Only five years earlier, during one of the worst years of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt had signed the Social Security Act, designed to provide continuing income for retired people.

Other people had received Social Security checks before Fuller.  But they were lump sum payments made to those who contributed to the program, but not long enough to be vested for monthly benefits. The average lump sum payment was  about $58, although one was as low as 5 cents.

No question that it worked out well for Fuller. She would live to be 100 and by the time she died on January 31, 1975--the 35th anniversary of getting that first Social Security check--Fuller would receive a total of almost $23,000 in benefits from her $24.75 in deductions.