Silence = family instability

March 21st, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

When Health & Disability Advocates conceived of this project – to share true stories about the impact of Social Security from the viewpoint of family members of beneficiaries — I don’t think we realized how hard it would be to find families willing to openly discuss their reliance on Social Security benefits.

My brother receives Social Security Disability insurance. So did my sister-in-law before her passing. My nephew received Dependent Benefits as the son of a worker with a disability when he was a minor. These benefits helped and continue to help my family remain stable and undisrupted.

Without these benefits, I am not sure what would have happened. Certainly, my own household budget would be trickier as my family member would rely more heavily on me for financial support.

Other colleagues shared similar stories. So we thought, “Great. Let’s get these stories out there!”

share-story-banner-1-630x359Don’t get me wrong. We could not have asked for two more perfect examples with Ivan and Robert’s families. It was OUR honor to feature them. But, finding them was no easy task. We searched far and wide for families willing to speak up.

It got me thinking as to why this might be the case. I realized that we live with strong cultural messages that say:

“Government shouldn’t have a role in your life.”
“Government is the problem.”
“We need to go back to the days when people and families didn’t look for handouts.”
“Benefits are draining our system and ruining the country.”
“It is ‘us’ vs. ‘them.’ Those of us who take care of ourselves vs. those of us don’t and carry their weight and burden the system.”

In this environment, no wonder everybody wants to consider themselves an ‘us’ and nobody wants to be ‘them.’  It is hard to admit that our family rely or will rely on a public benefit at some point in life.

But the truth is, we ALL rely on this Social Security public benefits system that assures stability during transitions and life stages at least one of which ALL of us will go through:  retirement, disability and death.

During these times, only a sliver of us could keep what we have built, maintain our role as active participants in community life, and avoid desperate poverty for ourselves or our family members without these programs.

If more families are willing to speak up, talk to decisionmakers, tell their stories to the media, maybe we can change the cultural message to:

“Government is there to maintain order and stability and Social Security is a key part of this.”
And “I am glad Social Security is there for my family.”
And finally, “Social Security=Family Stability.”

John Coburn, Senior Policy Advisor and Training Director, Health & Disability Advocates



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