After suffering through a decade of the Great Depression, the nation - and its lawmakers - understood how difficult it was for families with young children to survive when one or both parents die. This is why Congress established a safety net in the form of Social Security, which pays benefits to children when a parent dies.
But much has changed since 1939. Today, a child can be conceived after the death of the biological father through in vitro fertilization.
As a result, more than 100 claims are pending with the Social Security Administration regarding children with a deceased father conceived through science.
Those claims could be settled - or denied - in the near future when the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the issue. The high court heard arguments in the case on Monday.
Karen Capato filed for Social Security benefits for her twin children when they were born in 2003, about 18 months after her husband, Robert, died of cancer. When Robert was diagnosed with esophageal cancer he and his wife decided to put his semen in a sperm bank for later use.
Karen's claim for benefits was denied by Social Security officials. Nobody disputed her claim the twins were Robert's children, but they reasoned children conceived after a parents' death were not entitled to benefits.
That's a reasonable conclusion. When a single parent makes the choice to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization and then raise the child alone, the family should not be entitled to Social Security or other taxpayer-subsidized benefits.
Social Security was intended as a safety net. The benefits for children were intended to help families in crisis when a parent dies unexpectedly, leaving the surviving parent with the financial burden of raising the children alone.
And that brings this matter to the high court and the question of how the 1939 law should be considered in relation to new technology.
But Justice Antonin Scalia said the technology is irrelvent.
"What is at issue here is not whether children that have been born through artificial insemination get benefits. It's whether children who are born after the father's death gets benefits," Scalia said.
Scalia is on the right track.
Karen Capato made a decision to be a single parent, which she is free to do, but her children should not be entitlted to Social Security benefits.
Ultimately, lawmakers must get involved to refine the law to reflect the advances in science.