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A group of men in coats, including Senator Dole, are outside standing around President Reagan, who is seated at a desk, signing the Social Security Act

Social Security Reform


Since becoming law in 1935, the Social Security Act has undergone many changes. Senator Bob Dole was a member of the National Commission of Social Security Reform under the Reagan Administration and was involved in Social Security modifications throughout his senatorial career.



President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the challenge of assisting America’s most needy citizens--the elderly, the unemployed, the poor, and the sick--as early as January, 1934, when he formed a Committee on Economic Security to study these issues and recommend legislation. Following publication of the Committee’s report, legislation was considered, debated, and successfully passed through both houses of Congress on August 14, 1935.


Dissention among members of this bipartisan Committee escalated as time went by. Some members of the Commission believed that the impending crisis facing Social Security was blown out of proportion. Members were divided about how to resolve various issues, deadlocked on such matters as whether to recommend increasing taxes or reducing benefits. After missing its original deadline and forcing President Reagan to extend the life of the Commission, a compromise was reached that was supported by a majority of the members.

The Commission’s negotiations, however, did little to alter the stalemate in Congress that blocked passage of any bill during the remaining months of 1982. It was at this point that Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) stepped up and led a bipartisan compromise that ultimately allowed passage of the Committee’s recommendations.

"…and I have learned in my own life, from my own experience, that not every man, woman or child can make it on their own. And that in time of need, the bridge between failure and success can be the government itself. And given all that I have experienced, I shall always remember those in need. That is why I helped to save Social Security in 1983 and that is why I will be the president who preserves and strengthens and protects Medicare for America's senior citizens."


Social Security was also mentioned in Dole’s remarks given on June 11, 1996, his last day he served as a United State senator:

“I salute you for the leadership role you played in making this landmark legislation possible…This compromise proves that bipartisanship can resolve serious national problems. It is a clear and dramatic demonstration of how effectively our system works when men and women join together for the common good."


Ball, Robert Myers. The Greenspan Commission: What Really Happened. New York: Century Foundation, 2012.


For more information, see Historical Background and Development of Social Security


Date Range

  • 1961-1994

Online Materials

  • Letters, press releases, memos, newsletters, and pieces of legislation detailing changes to the Social Security Act (proposed and enacted), efforts to privatize Social Security, the Social Security Work Incentives Act, Moynihan Proposal, and Notch Years.