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AARP The Magazine

Rob on the Road

Social Security Is a Plan for All Families

These benefits aren't only for the retired

Imagine you're a 33-year-old mother of one, with a baby on the way, who learns her husband has been killed in a workplace accident. Imagine you have no idea how you're going to feed your family. Now, imagine discovering a program that will help you support your children until they become adults — all because your husband had earned benefits to protect the family. That blessing is Social Security, and the family was mine. My dad died before I was born. My mother worked incredibly hard as a seamstress, but Social Security survivors benefits helped put clothes on our backs, food on the table and a roof over our heads.

When we think about Social Security, we tend to picture retired people. That's a critically important function, but Social Security is far more. It protects working men and women of all ages from risks in life that can lead to the loss of livelihood, such as from death or disability. (One in three young workers will become disabled or die before reaching retirement age.) We may not think of Social Security as a family protection plan — but that's exactly what it is.

Picture this: More than 4 million Social Security recipients are children. Picture disaster relief for families when catastrophe strikes. Three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Social Security Administration sent the first checks to survivors of workers killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Social Security is a genuine lifeline for families.

See also: New to Social Security? What you should know

As I travel the country, you tell me you want to leave a better world to your children and grandchildren. When I visit college campuses, students say they feel deeply about making sure their parents and grandparents are secure and independent. Social Security is a vital part of an intergenerational compact; it helps provide the financial security to make all this possible.

AARP is fighting to stop Washington from cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit. Instead, we are calling for a separate conversation about fiscally responsible solutions that will keep the promise to each of us, our children and our grandchildren.

Social Security protects all of our families. We're all in this together.

Robert Romasco is the president of AARP.

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