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Statement on Signing a Bill Amending the Social Security Act.

December 28, 1971

I AM today signing into law H.R. 10604 which covers four unrelated subjects and makes desirable changes in portions of the Social Security Act.

Two provisions of the measure are technical in nature.

The first would provide more favorable treatment for certain social security beneficiaries, particularly parents who lost their sons in Vietnam, by paying lumpsum death benefits when the body is not recovered for burial.

Under a second amendment being signed into law, Medicaid benefits would be extended to cover services provided by Intermediate Care Facilities, the so-called ICF's. The purpose of this amendment: to provide a less costly alternative for the medically indigent, who do not need the institutional or intensive care provided in hospitals and skilled nursing homes.

A third worthwhile provision of H.R. 10604 will guarantee that some 600,000 Americans, needy, aged, blind, and disabled, now on public assistance, will continue to enjoy some benefits from the social security increases enacted in 1969. Were it not for this provision, these 600,000 would no longer be protected against a reduction of up to $4 monthly in their welfare checks.

The fourth provision represents a significant step in the direction of welfare reform.

Although they present some technical difficulties, the amendments the Congress voted to the Work Incentive program (WIN) would, in effect, essentially enact the workfare provisions I have proposed as a part of a complete reform of the welfare system.

Under these amendments, all able-bodied welfare recipients--rightly excepting the aged, children under 16 or attending school, those who are caring for ill or incapacitated persons, and mothers of small children--will be required to register for jobs or job training. The Federal Government will also assume 90 percent of the cost of child care and supportive services. The Federal matching rate for manpower services will rise from 80 percent to 90 percent. A new public service program will be established to replace some ineffective existing special work projects. Separate units of the Federal Work Incentive program will be established at all State agencies. Also added is a requirement that at least one-third of total WIN expenditures be used for on-the-job training and public service employment-reflecting a clear preference for real jobs, as opposed to long-term classroom training.

These amendments parallel my workfare recommendations embodied in H.R. 1. In my judgment, they reflect the national interest.

The United States today faces a changed world from the postwar world to which we had become accustomed. In the place of exhausted and dependent allies and defeated enemies, we today find ourselves with strong and independent friends and powerful adversaries competing for a new place in the sun.

No nation enjoys the unique advantages America possesses in that competition. But if we are to remain the most competitive, most productive society on earth, we must not forget how we got there. It is the sweat and labor of generations past and present that have brought us where we are today, that have piled high the wealth that enables us to be among the most generous nations in history with our own people, and with the world. The affluent society did not come into being by accident.

To those who deride the "work ethic," Americans must respond that any job for an able-bodied man is preferable to life on the public dole. No task, no labor, no work, is without dignity or meaning that enables an individual to feed and clothe and shelter himself, and provide for his family. We are a nation that pays tribute to the workingman and rightly scorns the freeloader who voluntarily opts to be a ward of the state. For over the last four decades, we have learned, at inestimable social cost, the truth of Franklin Roosevelt's words:

Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.

With passage of these amendments, a number of the workfare ideas outlined in my welfare reform recommendations of 1969 and beyond have now become law. The principle of work requirements is in place. The Federal Government is committed to 90 percent of the cost of day care and supplemental services. Tax deductions have been provided for working mothers, for day care costs, in the tax law I recently signed.

But the welfare system is yet in need of reform. Further economic incentives must be provided to keep families together, rather than break them apart--to encourage welfare recipients to take jobs, rather than to discourage them from working. With its return in January, this Congress should then complete the work of welfare reform.

Note: The statement was released at Key Biscayne, Fla.

As enacted, H.R. 10604 is Public Law 92-223 (85 Stat. 802).

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing a Bill Amending the Social Security Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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