At first glance, it wouldn’t look like I have anything in common with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE. He’s from Wisconsin. I’m from South Central Los Angeles. He’s a politician. I’m a telemetry technician.

However, we have one very important thing in common: we both received Social Security survivor’s benefits during our most vulnerable years. 


As we commemorate the 81st anniversary of our nation’s most successful government program in history, I hope that the Speaker of the House and other lawmakers remember that cutting Social Security would impact children too.

According to the Center for Global Policy Solutions, there were 3.2 million children younger than 18 receiving Social Security as the surviving dependent of a deceased parent, the dependent of a disabled worker, or the dependent of a retiree in 2014. This number doesn’t count the millions of children who indirectly benefit from this critical anti-poverty program.

I began receiving Social Security survivor benefits after my father died when I was 3 years old. I didn’t know at the time but those benefits would become my only source of stability during my formative years.

I was raised in what many would consider an unstable environment, but my life became especially rocky when I was 13. My mother died and I became a rebellious teen which resulted in me being placed in a group home. My life grew even more challenging a year later when I became a teen mom.

Despite, the obstacles that I faced, I always knew that I wanted something better for myself and my child. I moved out on my own when I was 19. My modest but dependable Social Security benefits became especially critical for me during this time in my life.  I was trying to pay rent, but didn’t have job skills or able to fall back on family members. My Social Security benefits showed landlords that I was stable and provided the security I needed to get myself on the right path.

Today, my life is totally different. I’ve earned several certifications in the medical field and have a great union job. I’m happily married with three children and I’ve even been recognized by some of Speaker Ryan’s colleagues during the Breakfast of Heroes Program.

However, I haven’t forgotten where I’ve come from or the important role Social Security played in my life. I also know this program will again be a vital part of my life in the future when I retire.

That’s why I’m standing up with working mothers, fathers, grandparents and Millennials across the country to call on lawmakers to protect and expand Social Security. This program is not only important to my future, it’s important for my children’s future. 

Pushing policies to dismantle Social Security would mean fewer children like me or Paul Ryan would have the opportunity to pursue their version of the American Dream. After all, Social Security isn’t a hand out; it’s a hand up. 

Cutting Social Security would also mean fewer Americans would have an opportunity to retire with dignity after a lifetime of hard work and playing by the rules. After all, there’s a retirement crisis in our country; expanding Social Security should be one of the first steps we take in solving it. 

While we celebrate Social Security’s anniversary, I challenge Paul Ryan and other lawmakers to remember that real people are affected by their decisions. Social Security recipients aren’t lazy people. They’re Americans who paid their taxes and earned a dignified retirement. They’re veterans who fought to protect our everyday freedoms. They’re Americans born with disabilities or have become disabled due to unforeseen circumstances; they’re children who deserve a shot at a good future regardless of their past. 

Tanisa Smith-Symes is member of SEIU Local 1107.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.