Papers of Save Our Security

Information from Online Catalog


Save Our Security.


Records, 1982-1997.


3.2 c.f. (8 archives boxes)


Records of Save Our Security, a non-profit coalition of national, state, and local organizations founded in 1979 by Wilbur Cohen to counter efforts to weaken the Social Security system. The work of SOS included research, publishing, lobbying, and public education. Included are minutes of the governing and advisory committees; correspondence; financial records; publications; and congressional testimony by Cohen, Arthur S. Flemming, Robert M. Ball, representatives of related organizations such as the Study Group on Social Security and the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and others. Also included are publications, correspondence, curricula, field reports, and surveys documenting two educational projects: the Appeal to Conscience Project, which educated the public about the need to raise the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) to the poverty level, and the Nelson Cruikshank Study Project which attempted to integrate social insurance issues into high school curricula.

Finding aid:



Ball, Robert M.
Cohen, Wilbur J. (Wilbur Joseph), 1913-1987.
Flemming, Arthur S.
Education--United States--Curricula.
Social problems.
Social security--United States.
Supplemental security income program.


Manuscript collection.

RLIN Number:



Archives Main Stacks

Call Number:

Mss 898

Shelf Location:

MAD 2M/30/E2-3
Background Information

Save Our Security. Records, 1982-1997
3.2 c.f. (8 archives boxes)

Records of Save Our Security (SOS), a nonprofit coalition of national, state and local organizations that was formed in 1979 by Wilbur J. Cohen to counter efforts to weaken the Social Security system. The work of Save Our Security included research, publishing, lobbying, and public education on social insurance issues. It dissolved in 1997. Included are the minutes of the governing and advisory committees; correspondence; financial records; publications; and congressional testimony presented by Cohen, Arthur S. Flemming, Robert M. Ball, other members of SOS, and representatives of related organizations such as the Study Group on Social Security and the National Senior Citizens Law Center. Also included are publications, correspondence, curricula, and field reports and surveys documenting two educational projects: the Appeal to Conscience Project, which educated the public about the need to raise Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the poverty level and the Nelson Cruikshank Study Project which attempted to integrate social insurance issues into high school curricula. Earlier organizational records may be found in the papers of Wilbur J. Cohen and Elizabeth Wickenden also held by the SHSW Archives.

Presented by Save Our Security, September, 1997. M97-243.
Processed by John Doff, Intern-1998
Location 2m/30/E2-3

Save Our Security (SOS) was established in 1979 as a nonprofit coalition of over 200 national, state, and local organizations, primarily labor unions and advocacy groups for the disabled and the aged. SOS was formed in response to efforts to weaken the 50 year-old Social Security system, and it was devoted to protecting and improving all aspects of Social Security and health care: Old Age and Survivors' Benefits, Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, Unemployment, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Save Our Security was founded by Wilbur Cohen who had served on the Committee on Economic Security that drafted the original Social Security Act. He served as head of the SOS until his death in 1987.

Save Our Security was divided into two parts: the SOS Coalition itself and the SOS Education Fund. The two parts shared a common staff and many of the same committees, but they carried out different duties. The Coalition was in charge of coordination of the lobbying and advocacy work of its member organizations, while the Education Fund was in charge of research, publications, and outreach.

The Coalition informed and coordinated the activities of its member organizations who contributed to SOS in proportion to their size. It worked for increased benefits, improved paperwork and management of the Social Security Administration, equitable benefits for "Notch babies," and protection of the Social Security trust funds from budget cuts.

The SOS Coalition and the Education Fund shared an executive director, assistant director, and a clerical assistant. This small staff, along with the chair, executive vice chair and the treasurer, handled the basic administrative and financial functions of both organizations. The Coalition and the Education Fund had separate executive and advisory committees, although committee membership often overlapped. The most active committees were: the Committee on Supplemental Security Income, the Women's Issue Committee, the Disability Committee, the Committee on Independent Agency and Administration, and the Medical Care Committee.

During the 1980s the SOS Coalition focused on lobbying and advocacy before congressional committees concerning proposed cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare. It also proposed expansion of disability and Medicare benefits, and it fought to secure benefits for those persons born in the "notch" created by the Social Security Act of 1974.

In 1987 SOS drafted a bill of rights for beneficiaries and contributors to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. This bill of rights focused on streamlining and making understandable the complex bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration. By 1990 all of the provisions in this bill of rights were adopted by Congress. In the 1990s the SOS Coalition turned to protecting the Social Security
Administration from yearly budget debates. It also called for the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid and ultimately for Universal Health Coverage for all Americans.

After Wilbur Cohen's death in 1987 Arthur S. Flemming, Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare during the Eisenhower Administration, took over as chair of SOS. He served in that capacity until his death in 1995. At that point Robert M. Ball was chair of the organization until its demise in 1997.

The SOS Education Fund's mission was to educate the public about the importance of Social Security programs. The Education Fund was founded as part of SOS by Wilbur Cohen in 1979. It provided support services for the Coalition through research and publication. Among its publications were: Social Security in the USA: A Discussion Guide to Social Insurance with Lesson Plans; Social Security: Crucial Questions and Straight Answers; Social Security: The Compromise and Beyond; Supplemental Security Income; and Unfinished Business: Adequacy and Equity for Women in the Social Security System.

Beginning in 1987 the Education Fund administered two large projects: SSI, An Appeal to Conscience and the Nelson Cruikshank Social Insurance Study Project. The SSI, Appeal to Conscience, project was designed to increase public awareness of SSI. It elicited the help of social workers, clergy, and recipients of SSI in order to raise awareness of the need for increased SSI payments. The people recruited for this effort spoke out in public forums about the state of SSI and about life under SSI.

The Nelson Cruikshank Social Insurance Study Project was designed to "advance the education of young people about social insurance concepts" and to teach the history of social insurance. The project hoped to increase awareness of social insurance's place in history and in the lives of Americans, and it developed materials for use in secondary, college, and adult education classrooms. The project also included the production of a video for use in the classroom or other public forums.

The SOS came to an abrupt end in early 1997. Prior to this time SOS had been experiencing financial difficulties, and in the end it was unable to meet its small payroll. In January, 1997, Save Our Security was declared inactive.

Scope and Content
The records of the Save Our Security Coalition and Education Fund provide evidence of the organization's work on many social insurance issues during the 1980s and 1990s. The early years of SOS are not covered in this collection, but useful papers can be found in the papers of Wilbur Cohen and Elizabeth Wickenden, both of which are held by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives. The bulk of the SOS records cover the organization's work from 1984 to 1995. Documentation of its final years is limited, perhaps due to SOS's financial difficulties.

The Save Our Security Records are divided into three series: Coalition Records, Subject Files and Education Fund Records. The records of the Coalition are further divided into: General Information and Administrative Records, Publicity and Press Material, and Financial Records. The records of the Education Fund are divided into: Education Fund Records, Appeal to Conscience Records, and Nelson Cruikshank Study Project Records.

The General Information and Administrative Records of the Coalition Records consist of membership and leadership information, agendas and minutes of committee meetings, and general correspondence. The agendas and minutes of committee meetings document the work of the executive committee, 1984-1996. The work of these committees consisted of establishing agendas for SOS, and the minutes of these meetings are therefore useful for understanding the directions that SOS followed. However, minutes do not exist for every executive committee meeting. The minutes of the advisory committee are more complete but only for the years, 1984-1990. The other committee meeting minutes and agendas in the collection provide a glimpse into the issues concerning the Coalition in the 1980s and 1990s. The general correspondence consists mainly of letters to congressional leaders about social insurance. It also includes information concerning the Coalition's ability to remain viable after the death of Wilbur Cohen.

The Financial Records consist of budgets and fundraising reports. These documents provide little information about the financial problems of SOS. Other folders entitled Financial Correspondence and IRS Correspondence are more useful in that regard, however. The IRS Correspondence, in particular, is useful for examining the final year of SOS's active history.

The Publicity and Press Material includes an incomplete run of SOS publications including Action Alerts and the SOS Bulletin, the official SOS membership newsletter. Action Alerts were occasional papers focused on particular social insurance issues and they were intended as information for members of Congress. The other papers in this section consist of press releases, position papers, and an interesting document created by the Coalition to serve as a style manual for congressional testimony.

The Education Fund Records series consists of general information, meeting minutes and agendas, general correspondence, brochures, and financial records. The general information consists mainly of in-house outlines about the fund's activities and proposals for future activities. While the Education Fund shared some of the same committees as the Coalition, the meeting minutes and agendas in this part of the collection represent those committees with exclusive jurisdiction over the fund. The general correspondence consists largely of letters about the consultants and researchers hired to aid the fund. These consultants did the research and often produced the position papers that informed the Coalition's overall efforts. The main activity of the Education Fund was publication of brochures and leaflets on issues concerning Save Our Security. Much of the funding for the Education Fund came from the Coalition and therefore from the SOS
membership. However, the Education Fund also sought grants for special projects and, on paper, it was a separate 501c(4) organization. The financial and fundraising reports in this section exclusively concern the work of the Education Fund.

The Appeal to Conscience Records consist of general information, meeting minutes and agendas, brochures, correspondence, financial information, and reports. The general information on Appeal to Conscience consists of material for funding proposals. The Appeal to Conscience campaign established coalitions in 12 cities across the United States, and the meeting minutes and agendas filed here come from the joint meetings of these local coalitions. The brochures in this part of the collection consist of updates on the success of the project and a survey concerning public awareness of the issues pertaining to SSI. The correspondence consists mainly of the outgoing letters from the Education Fund to local coalitions, but it also includes some incoming correspondence from the local groups about their work. The financial records consist of financial information for grant proposals and the progress reports required by funders. Also included here are some of the grant proposals produced by the project. The final section in these records consists of progress reports and information from the local coalitions. Of the twelve coalitions (Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, New Orleans, Prince Georges County (Maryland), Portland, New York, Memphis, Houston, Colorado, Maine and Washington State, New Orleans, Chicago, and New York provided the most information.

The Nelson Cruikshank Study Project Records consist of meeting minutes, correspondence, grant proposals, drafts of school curricula, reports on curriculum implementation, and records of a film project. The meeting minutes contain information on administration and funding of this ambitious project which sought to create curricula for schools that integrated information on social insurance into American history and social studies courses. The correspondence in this section deals mostly with establishing workshops to train teachers. The grant proposals outline the scope of this project and provide an overview of the curriculum of the goals of the study project. The most useful portion of these records are the materials used in the teacher workshops. Unfortunately, only draft curricula exist. The bulk of the material in this part of the collection concerns workshops entitled "Teaching and Learning about Social Insurance Project." These workshops were designed to provide Social Studies teachers with ideas on how to integrate social insurance issues into their curriculum, and they were run by teachers who had successfully achieved that goal. The most useful portion of this part of the collection are the surveys completed by the teachers about student response. The teachers were also asked to submit curriculum materials and course outlines they created and the collection contains the numerous surveys, course outlines, and curriculum materials. It also includes the reports of workshop facilitators in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The final portion of the records of the Nelson Cruikshank Study Project are the records of a film project on Social Security. The records include marketing research, budgets, and minutes of planning meetings. Unfortunately, the finished film is not included.

The Subject Files consist of clippings, congressional testimony, and publications, from SOS and from other social security advocacy groups, arranged alphabetically by subject. There are also substantial files on health care, the Older Americans Act, Supplemental Security Income, and allied advocacy groups, including the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the Study Group on Social Security. Finally, there are files on the reforms of the Social Security Administration, staff and service issues at the SSA and financing Social Security. The testimonies by Ball, Cohen, and Flemming are among the most valuable documentation in the papers.

Container List
Mss 898



  General Information and Administrative Records
1 1  Background & organizational information, 1984-1994
  2  Cohen biographical information
  3-5  Minutes and agendas of executive and annual meetings, 1984-1995-95
  Committee records
  6  Advisory Committee, 1984-1990
  7  Disability Committee, 1984-1989
  8  Finance Committee, 1988
  9  Women's Issues Committee, 1984-1986, 1992-1993
  10  Miscellaneous committees, 1985-1995
  11-15  1983-1985, May
 2 1-11  1985, June-1997, June
  Financial records
 3 1  Budgets, 1982-1986
  2  Fundraising reports, 1981-1995
  3  Financial correspondence, 1989-1995
  4  IRS correspondence, 1995-1996
  Publicity and press materials
  5 Action Alerts, 1983-1985 
  6  Brochures
  7  50th anniversary, 1985
  8-10  Position papers
  11 Press releases, 1985-1996
  12 SOS Bulletin, 1985-1987
  General records
  13 Background information
  14 Correspondence, 1989-1991
  15 Financial correspondence, 1984-1991
  16 Financial reports, 1982-1986
  17 Fundraising reports, 1982-1986
 4 1  IRS tax exempt status
  2  Minutes and agendas, 1986-1993
  3  Publications
  Appeal to Conscience Project Records
  4  General information
  5  Agendas and minutes
  6  Brochures, 1991-1994
Budget, 1991-1994
  7  Bulletins
  8  Coalitions, 1991-1992
  9 Chicago
  10 New Orleans
  11 New York
  12-14 Correspondence, 1989-1994
  Grant proposals
  15 General
  16 Administration on Aging proposal and reports, 1991-1993
  17 Public Welfare Foundation proposal and reports, 1992-1994
  18 How-to Manual, 1994
5 1 Meeting minutes
  2  Survey
  Nelson Cruikshank Study Project Records
  Film project
  3  Budget and timeline
  4-5  Correspondence, 1987-1993
  6  Marketing research
  7  Minutes
  8 Production company information
  9 "Proposal for a national curriculum on Social Security"
  10-11 "Framework for Teaching about Social Insurance" drafts
  12 Grant proposals
  13 Heterogeneous Insurances Treatise, by Ray S. Hudson
  14 Minutes, 1987-1988
  15 Miscellaneous lesson plans
  16 Publication correspondence
  Teaching and Learning about Social Insurance Project
  17 Draft, 1990
  18 General
  19 California
  20 Florida
6 1-8 Georgia-Washington
  9 Wisconsin
  10 Request for proposals, 1989
7 1 Bork, Robert H.
  2-3  Budget and Social Security
  4  Democratic platform committee, 1984
  4a  Congressional testimony, by Carol Simpson for Women in Government Relations
  5-7  Disability insurance and Social Security
  8-9  Finance issues and Social Security
  10 Hardy, Dorcas
  11-14 Health care
  15 NEA Social Security survey results
8 1  National Senior Citizens Law Center
  2  "Notch babies"
  3  Older Americans Act
  4-5  Social Security Administration reform
  6-8   Supplemental Security Income
  9-10   Staff and service issues as SSA
  11   Study Group on Social Security
  12 Welfare
  13 Women and Social Security