Please pray for Laurie. She is "everywoman" -- the woman who sits next to you in church. Who lives next door. Who serves with you in the PTA. Laurie he has cancer, and she is my friend. Her story could be yours or mine. It begins quite conventionally. Both parents were professionals. She graduated from high school and college, then attended graduate school and earned a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. She married and at 31 had her only child.
Then normal bumps in the road of family and career began to turn into insurmountable obstacles. After her divorce, life returned to a "new" normal until her daughter was diagnosed with the most severe form of juvenile diabetes. There was no way to plan or insure against the illness. She could not afford to pay for insurance to cover her daughter's medical needs and expenses of more than $200,000 a year. After an enormous amount of effort, she got her daughter approved for Social Security disability. Had that not happened, it is doubtful that her daughter would have lived to graduate from high school and college.
Social Security and its stability is a women's issue. It is one of our nation's best, most efficiently run antipoverty programs. More than half of the elderly women in our country would fall into poverty without their Social Security income. (I say women only because women tend to live longer than men.) Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program, including welfare. When it comes to helping children, the elderly and the disabled, Social Security is a safety net for many, many people.
We hear much these days about the Social Security Trust Fund running out. Social Security has worked for people for more than 75 years; the trust fund would be just fine if Congress had not raided it several times. An example of this is the payroll tax holiday for 2011 -- which reduces Social Security of $120 billion in contributions this year. The idea was to give people who need it the most a little extra money to spend and help the economy.
That is certainly a laudable idea, but the fact remains that the trust fund is down by $120 billion. An answer to that problem is to remove the cap on contributions to the trust fund. It is now $106,800; that means that 94 percent of working people pay on their entire salary, and the remaining 6 percent (who may make many times more than $106,800) pay nothing into the Social Security trust fund on money earned above $106,800.
Social Security has proved over the years that by working and contributing together we can accomplish just about anything. Social Security has been a way that allows Americans care for Americans.
I couldn't help Laurie and her daughter with medical expenses, but with the benefit of Social Security, they have survived-until recently. Laurie was diagnosed with cancer while her daughter was in college. She managed to find medical help and had surgery. Things were looking up when she was diagnosed with fractures in her spine and pelvis; the cancer had returned. She has managed to get herself on Social Security disability. (It seems that in Texas, one has to be at death's door to qualify.) She recently traveled to MD Anderson Hospital in Houston as a last-ditch effort to obtain treatment. She is still waiting to see if she qualifies. She could not have even done that much without the help of Social Security.
We need to remind our elected officials that Social Security IS NOT part of our nation's deficit. Social Security is separately funded and has absolutely nothing to do with the federal budget. It really isn't broken; it has worked extraordinarily well for the past 75+ years, and there is no reason it cannot continue to work well. We need to protect Social Security for Laurie's sake. She still has much to offer.
Humphrey, is a former school teacher and a member of the American
Association of University Women Abilene Branch, former state public
policy chair, AAUW Texas.