September 11 Social Security Reminders Issued
September 11 marks the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and the aborted attack that ended with a plane crash in a grassy field in western Pennsylvania. In some ways, it is hard to believe that it has been two years since that horrific day when so many innocent people died, and America changed forever.
The lives of millions of Americans changed forever that day, too. But none were affected more tragically than those who lost loved ones in those brutal and senseless assaults on our homeland.
This was depicted so well by a recent documentary about a small boy in Brooklyn whose mother died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. It was a poignant story of how one little boy coped with the sudden and overwhelming loss of a mother and how a family coped with the loss of a wife, a daughter and a friend. As President Bush said, "Everyone…who died on September 11 was the most important person on earth to somebody."
Other than what the documentary revealed, I know nothing about the members of this family or their possible involvement with Social Security. But I am sure that if the cameras returned to their home today, they would find a growing boy who, once each month, gets a reminder that his mother, and his country, had made plans for his future.
That once-a-month reminder is a Social Security payment.
The little boy’s mother worked for an investment firm located in one of the top floors of the south tower of the World Trade Center. That means she paid Social Security taxes, as do more than 150 million other working Americans. Most people tend to think of those taxes as an investment in an old-age pension plan – as something that will eventually lead to Social Security benefits once they reach their "golden years."
But, as this Brooklyn family so tragically learned, sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned. A life can be sadly cut short long before retirement is even a consideration. When that happens, families are often surprised to learn that the children – and sometimes the spouse – of a loved one who dies are eligible for monthly Social Security benefits. In fact, this month alone, almost two million children who have lost a mother or father will receive more than $1 billion in Social Security survivor benefits. Another 200,000 widowed mothers and fathers who are caring for young children will get about $125 million in Social Security benefits on the records of their deceased spouses.
As a result of September 11, 2001, Social Security employees have taken more than 5,000 disaster-related claims. Although some were disability claims from people who survived the terrorist attacks, most were for children whose parents died that day.
The next time you get your Social Security Statement, glance down to the line that refers to potential survivor benefits. But I hope it offers some comfort knowing your Social Security taxes are buying this important "life insurance" protection.