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Before Social Security was enacted in 1935, at least half of those 65 and older in the United States were financially dependent upon others, including family members and public assistance. Today, the elderly's dependency on public assistance has dropped to a fraction of its depression-era levels, and poverty rates among this group are now lower than for the population as a whole. However, Social Security's long-term financing problems will require changes to restore fiscal stability to the program. The challenge for policymakers will be to make the necessary changes while retaining protections that are so important to millions of Americans. The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Committee on Ways and Means asked GAO to discuss the importance of Social Security for vulnerable populations. This testimony will address the key provisions in the Social Security program that support vulnerable populations, the ways in which those populations and American society in general have changed over time, and the implications of those changes for the Social Security program.

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