2006-09-08 / Columnists

Social Security And You

The Importance Of Survivors Benefits
By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

James Glasser
James Glasser September 11, 2006 marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America.

The nation suffered devastating losses on that day. Social Security employees, for example, handled more than 5,000 individual claims related to September 11.

Although some were disability claims from people who survived the attacks, most were for survivors benefits for the spouses and dependent children of those who died.

The tragedy reminded us of what many people tend to forget - that the Social Security program is about more than retirement.

The Social Security taxes that 160 million workers pay also insures them and their family should the worker become disabled and unable to work. And these taxes also pay for survivors benefits in the event of the worker's death. In fact, fully 14 percent of Social Security beneficiaries are the survivors of insured workers.

Looked at from another perspective, about 97 percent of persons aged 20-49 who worked in 2005 have survivors insurance protection for their young children and the surviving spouse caring for the children. In fact, the value of the survivors insurance that most people have under Social Security is probably more than the value of their private life insurance policies.

How much a particular family can get from Social Security depends on a worker's average lifetime earnings.

To see what your family could receive, check your Social Security Statement , which is sent each year to every worker age 25 or older. The Statement gives an estimate of survivors benefits that could be paid, as well as an estimate of retirement and disability benefits and other important information.

If you would like more information about Social Security survivors benefits, visit www.socialsecurity. gov/planners/index.htm or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY, 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the publication, Survivors Benefits.

Of course, we all hope and pray our family members will never be in a position to collect such benefits. But you can take some comfort knowing Social Security taxes are providing this important protection should something unexpected happen to you or your spouse.

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