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September 22, 2013

SOCIAL SECURITY: In disaster aftermath, SS can help

TERRE HAUTE — For some, recent years have been made difficult by natural disasters. Fatal tornadoes in Oklahoma. Massive wildfires and strong earthquakes in Colorado and California. Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern seaboard. Flooding in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and, most recently, Colorado.

In addition to the catastrophes caused by Mother Nature, there are man-made tragedies, such as the recent shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that resulted in the death of at least 12; the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 58; the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 children and staff members dead; and the Boston Marathon explosions, killing three and injuring more than 260.

When disasters strike, despite the immediate response by so many well-intentioned people and organizations, it’s often hard to know where to turn. But when it comes to the need for disability and survivors benefits, Social Security is always here to serve those who require our services.

Dependent survivors of wage earners, such as spouses, minor children, and in some cases parents or grandchildren, may be eligible for survivor benefits when the family’s provider dies. The sad fact is that about one in eight of today’s 20-year-old workers will die before reaching age 67. The good news is about 96 percent of people age 20 to 49 who work have survivors insurance protection if they die and leave behind young children and surviving spouses.

Social Security is here to help people inflicted with disabling conditions as well. In fact, disabled workers account for about 19 percent of all Social Security benefits paid. One in four of today’s 20-year-old workers will become disabled before reaching age 67.

Our emergency services reach more than the limited numbers of people who die or become disabled as a result of a tragedy. For example, if you are still receiving a paper check and the delivery of mail is interrupted due to severe weather, in many cases any Social Security office can issue an immediate replacement payment. To avoid this situation, however, switch to electronic payments as required by law. Even if your mailbox — or home — is destroyed due to an emergency, or you are evacuated or displaced, your payment will always arrive on time every time if you receive it electronically.

Sometimes, emergencies cause Social Security offices to close. If you want to check whether your local office is open, the best place to go is to Social Security’s Office Closings And Emergency Information page at www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency. This site is a great place to visit before you try to go to an office, especially when severe weather is affecting your area.

The emergency page also offers valuable FEMA advice that can help you prepare for or cope with emergency situations.

While we all hope and pray to avoid disasters, unfortunately, they are bound to occur. The best we can do is to be as prepared as possible to deal with them if they happen. And know that Social Security will be here for you when you need it.

Be prepared. Visit www.social

security.gov/emergency.

Brian L. Hewitt is District Manager at the Social Security Administration at 222 Cherry St. in Terre Haute.

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