Monday, October 22, 2012

Serving Latinos Over 50: An Essential Part of Our Mission

      I just got back from a Social Security Disability Law conference in Seattle, Washington.  During my stay in the Pacific Northwest, I had the opportunity to share my experiences as a disability attorney with other colleagues and continue to learn about the ever more complex SSI and SSDI process.  I came back thoroughly convinced of how important the Social Security Disability Programs are for our Latino Community, particularly those over 50.
        Never before in history has the U.S. contained so many older people.  Today, one out of every 9 Americans is "old"—another former youth turns 50 every 8 seconds.  January 2011 ushered in the first of approximately 77 million Baby Boomers, born from 1946 through 1964 and surging toward the gates of retirement.  Latinos, in particular, make up the fastest segment of this aging population.  An article published by the Washington State University concluded that: “Elderly Hispanics now represent the fastest-growing population currently at or near retirement.”  By 2050, Hispanics will make up 20 percent of the elderly population, up from 7 percent in 2010, according to Census data.
     As we age, our chances of becoming disabled and unable to work increase.  For example, a fifty year old person is twice more likely to become disabled than a 40 year old.  The chances become even greater in persons who have performed physical labor throughout their life --the type of work most commonly found by our forefathers when they came to this country. Given these figures, it is easy to understand why so many Latino(a)s who are between the ages of 50 and 65 need the safety net provided by the Social Security Disability programs (SSI / SSDI). 
     As I enjoyed the great apples from Yakima Valley and sipped the wonderful wines of Walla Walla County, I was reminded of the many Latino(a) workers who have thrown their backs and busted their knees working in farms in Washington State and  across the U.S.  Now, it is our moral obligation to support those who can no longer work as a result of a medical condition or injury.