Quick facts about why Social Security is vital to Washington women and families

Via the National Women’s Law Center:

Social Security is a family insurance plan that provides retirement benefits and life and disability insurance to Washington’s working families.

  • About 1 in 6 residents – about 1,046,200 people – receives disability, survivor, and/or retirement benefits from Social Security.
  • 93 percent of residents 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
  • About 70,500 children receive Social Security benefits because of the loss of a parent’s income due to death, disability or retirement.
  • About 180,900 disabled workers and their family members receive Social Security benefits.
  • About 80,000 widowed spouses receive Social Security survivor’s benefits. (Nationally, women represent virtually all (99 percent) of spouses receiving survivor benefits.)

Washington women depend on modest Social Security benefits to get by.

  • Women are a majority of both adult beneficiaries and beneficiaries 65 and older.
  • The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $12,400 per year, compared to about $16,500 for men 65 and older.
  • Older women rely more on income from Social Security than older men do. Median income for women 65 and older living alone is $18,200 per year – and Social Security represents 72 percent of that amount. Median income for comparable men is $27,500 – and Social Security represents 48 percent of that amount.

Social Security is a critical anti-poverty program for Washington women and families.

  • Social Security lifted 312,000 residents out of poverty, including 14,000 children.
  • Social Security dramatically reduced poverty rates for women 65 and older: from 43 to 10 percent for all women 65 and older, and from 63 to 16 percent for older women living alone.

Social Security benefits allow Harriet Moulton to care for her grandson

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

With her two children grown, Harriet Moulton and her husband began to map out how they wanted to enjoy a little more space and time together. “We figured that we had a number of years to ourselves, to do things we’d like to do. We had two empty bedrooms – one was going to be his study, one was going to be for my art and sewing.”

But a phone call six years ago derailed their plan. Harriet heard her son’s voice on the other end of the line. “Come get Damian,” he said, “or he’s going to the state. I can’t take care of him.”

She responded without hesitation. “Hold on while I get an airplane ticket,” she said. “I’ll be right there.” Harriet, who was 44 at the time, bought a ticket to Colorado and came back with Damian, her three-month-old grandson.

For several years, Harriet and her husband, George, took care of Damian. Just before she and her husband completed the process of legally adopting Damian, George died in May 2010. The following October the adoption went through, but fortunately Damian remained eligible for survivor benefits.

“I’m really thankfully we were able to adopt him,” Harriet said. “It allows him to be eligible for the survivor benefit and every penny counts.” Continue reading “Social Security benefits allow Harriet Moulton to care for her grandson”

Social Security helped Maureen Sullivan continue her education after her father died

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

Maureen Sullivan’s father made education a high-priority for his family and held high expectations for Maureen and her older sister.

“My dad was an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable man,” Maureen said. “He was a lifelong learner and he instilled a strong sense on the value of education in my sister and me.”

Unfortunately, Maureen’s father didn’t get the chance to see his daughters graduate from college. He passed away when Maureen was 14. Thankfully, however, the Social Security survivor benefits that Maureen received helped to keep her family in their home and Maureen in the school she attended.

“I was a freshman in high school and my sister was a freshman in college at the time,” Maureen said. “Emotionally, my dad’s loss hit us really hard. We were hit hard financially as well. The majority of our income had come from my dad’s salary. Social Security survivor benefits really helped us to pay the bills and have food on the table. We were grateful for the support.” Continue reading “Social Security helped Maureen Sullivan continue her education after her father died”

Social Security helped Beth Finke’s family survive the death of her father

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

Native Chicagoan Beth Finke knows first-hand how Social Security can benefit children and their families. As the youngest in a family of seven children, she became a first-time Social Security recipient at three-years-old following the death of her father. At the time, four of her brothers and sisters also lived at home. Beth and her siblings received Social Security survivor benefits, which allowed her mother to make ends meet.

“The survivor benefits literally allowed our family to survive,” Beth said.

In addition to helping her family survive, Social Security played another important role in Beth’s life as a young adult. During the years Beth attended college, the government continued to provide Social Security benefits for youth up to age 22 enrolled in college. By eliminating the need to immediately enter the workforce at age 18 to support themselves and their families, this extension helped many students like Beth complete their post-secondary education successfully. This benefit, since rescinded and unavailable for today’s young adults, made it possible for Beth to go to college and get a degree in journalism. Continue reading “Social Security helped Beth Finke’s family survive the death of her father”

Social Security helped Congressman Paul Ryan when his father died unexpectedly

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

On the day of Congressman Paul Ryan’s birth in 1970, President Richard Nixon unveiled a federal budget proposal that included a large increase in Social Security payments. As a teenager, Social Security would later play an important role in the personal life of Representative Ryan (R-WI).

At the age of 16, Ryan’s father died unexpectedly from a heart attack. The death left the 10th grader, his three older siblings, and his mother alone.

“I did a lot of growing up pretty fast then,” Ryan says. His father’s death “threw me for a loop for a couple of years. I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of self-discovery. It gave me a pretty cold, quick lesson which was that life was short, so make the best of it.” Continue reading “Social Security helped Congressman Paul Ryan when his father died unexpectedly”

Social Security helped Mary Thompson raise her family

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

Although she has never married or had children of her own, Mary Thompson knew that she wanted to care for her two young nieces after her sister died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in 2004. “I knew I wanted to raise Brianna and Brandy. But I really did have a fear of how I was going to do it financially as a single person,” she said.

Initially, providing care for two children unexpectedly strained Mary’s budget. Her salary as a human resources assistant at a bank only allowed her to comfortably meet the needs of a single person. Suddenly, she needed to make it work for three.

“What I was making was not enough to handle food and clothes for the girls let alone if they would want to go to a movie or out to eat with their friends,” she said. “I was concerned. I didn’t know how I could make ends meet. My paycheck took care of house bills and whatever I needed personally, and that was about it.”

But about a year after her sister’s death, Thompson got some relief when she learned that her young nieces qualified for survivor benefits from Social Security. Continue reading “Social Security helped Mary Thompson raise her family”

Why Social Security is important to children

From the Alliance for Retired Americans:

Spotlight: Children and Social Security

Social Security provides vital life and disability insurance protection for millions of citizens, especially children and their families. About 6 million children under age 18, or nearly 9% of all children in the United States, benefit from Social Security as dependents of workers who have died or become disabled or as family members in households where an adult relies on Social Security.

Of the 6 million children in families that received Social Security, 1.1 million were lifted out of poverty by Social Security income. Children may receive Social Security benefits until they reach age 18, and if a full-time student, until they reach age 19. Disabled children may receive benefits indefinitely as long as the disability was incurred before reaching age 22.

For 75 years, Social Security has operated as a family insurance program that serves Americans of all ages. In addition to being a retirement program, Social Security provides a safety net for more than 53 million Americans, including retirees, the disabled, children and families.

Read more from Spotlight: Children and Social Security »

En Español | Enfoque: Los Niños y el Seguro Social »