By Vonda VanTil
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
We celebrate Black History Month, President’s Day and Valentine’s Day during the month of February . Also February 2-8, 2014 was also celebrated as Chicano History Week in the state of Michigan. With all of these celebrations there are also awareness campaigns regarding Social Security benefits.
The month of February also was a time to recognize a number of unfortunate ailments that disable and take the lives of too many people.
February is American Heart Month, focusing on heart disease and how to prevent it.
Every year more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack and about 600,000 die from heart disease - making up about a fourth of the nation's deaths. National Wear Red Day, February 7, also focuses on heart disease - the number one killer of women.
February 4 is World Cancer Day, a chance to raise our collective voices in the name of improving knowledge about cancer. February 14 is National Donor Day, encouraging everyone to become an organ donor, giving the ultimate Valentine to someone in need.
These awareness campaigns remind us how critically important Social Security disability benefits are for people with severe disabilities and their families.
Many people do not like to think about disability. However, the onset of disability is unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any age. The unfortunate reality is that one in four 20-year-old workers become disabled before reaching retirement age.
When severe illness or injury robs a person of the ability to work and earn a living, Social Security disability benefits can provide a critical source of financial support at a time of need.
You don't need to have had a heart attack, organ transplant, or cancer to qualify for disability benefits. However, you must have a disability that is severe enough to render you unable to work and that is expected to last a year or longer, or result in death.
If you have such a disability, you should start your application now. The most convenient way to accomplish this is online. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability to begin.
Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was printed in the March 9, 2014 - March 22, 2014 edition.