When Ray Miao's wife died of cancer in 1981, he became the sole provider for their two young children.
"Overnight, our family income dropped in half," said Miao, a biomedical researcher. But Social Security survivors benefits kept the family afloat.
See also: Rally to save Social Security, Medicare.
Miao — now 67 and a Bend retiree — was able to afford college for his children. Today, his son is a medical researcher, and his daughter is studying for a doctorate.
Their Social Security survivors benefits, said Miao, president of AARP Oregon, "is what saved us."
Oregon has more than 712,000 Social Security beneficiaries and nearly 625,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Some, like Miao, know firsthand that the programs can be all that prevent a lifetime of struggle.
Recent national debate about the financial future of Social Security and Medicare has prompted AARP Oregon to schedule a series of public meetings this month to educate Oregonians about the programs and seek their input.
"These are benefits that people have paid into through a lifetime of hard work," said Joyce DeMonnin, AARP Oregon outreach director. "We're assuming that these programs are going to be there for us."