The future of the United States' social welfare commitments, including retirement and disability payments, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and the State Child Health Insurance Program, poses urgent questions as social and demographic change in the country accelerates. Yet even many social welfare policy experts fail to grasp the sheer size and intricacy of the Social Security Act, which governs those commitments, and the resulting complexity of any reform efforts. In this outstanding guide to the Act's programs and policies, along with the context that shaped them, Andrew Dobelstein takes readers step by step through their maze, providing the kind of comprehensive view of the U.S. social welfare system that is essential for any would-be reformers to master. Since being signed into law in 1935, the Social Security Act has institutionalized the country's social welfare undertakings into a massive package administered by a sprawling federal agency and state-level organizations that must implement its programs. Dobelstein provides the first complete guide to every entitlement authorized by the Social Security Act, drawing on his 38 years of research, teaching, and community service to explain in accessible, straightforward writing the origins, development, and ins and outs of their practical administration. By showing how the United States' unique social welfare philosophy is reflected by the Social Security Act, this book provides a foundation for examining how its social welfare programs are bonded into a major social welfare enterprise. A fresh appraisal of the U.S. social welfare system's evolution and current situation is necessary if the country is going to use efficiently its social welfare resources going forward. Students and scholars of policy and government, as well as public servants, whose work involves the real-life implications of the Social Security Act, will find this sweeping yet detailed overview an indispensable aid.