As the country nears a projected federal default date as early as June 1, experts and advocates are warning that seniors’ benefits could be in jeopardy. A default would mean that the government will not be able to meet its financial obligations, resulting in delays for vital programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Here’s what Rae Hartley Beck of Forbes had to say on Monday:

“It’s never a good thing when politicians use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip. But for the one in five Americans who receive a monthly check from Social Security, the current political standoff in our nation’s capital is nothing short of ominous.” – Rae Hartley Beck, Forbes, 5/15/23

The pressure on House Republicans and the Biden White House to reach a deal has never been higher.  Social Security expert Alicia Munnell weighed in on the subject in MarketWatch:

“The fact that some 13 million people have virtually no other source of income, a body of research suggests that timing is very important for cash strapped low-income households.” – attribution, Alicia Munnell,  Center for Retirement Research at Boston University, 5/15/23

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has been issuing similar warnings for seniors to prepare for the worst, ever since Speaker McCarthy began a dangerous game of “chicken” by threatening not to lift the debt ceiling without massive concessions on spending.

Our director of government relations and policy, Dan Adcock, told NBC News:

“Seniors should be prepared if they’re financially able… so they have enough to tide them over.  But millions of beneficiaries have no financial room to maneuver” – Dan Adcock to NBC News, 5/13/23 

Adcock noted that about 40% of Social Security recipients, which include Americans who are disabled and those who are widowed, receive 90% of their income from Social Security. That equates to nearly 27 million people.

Meanwhile, our senior financial security expert, Maria Freese also warned CNBC, “With a default, there may be no money to send Social Security checks out.”

Mary Johnson, policy analyst with the Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan advocacy group, said to NBC News, “the longer we wait and get close to default, the greater the risk to Social Security benefits being held up and delayed, or not paid in full.”

The National Committee has laid the blame for the debt crisis squarely on House Republicans’ shoulders. Not only would a default be disastrous for seniors on fixed incomes; McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill would slash funding for the Social Security Administration and several programs under the Older Americans Act that disadvantaged seniors rely on every day.

Our president and CEO Max Richtman sent a letter to Congress detailing the impacts of the House GOP bill on seniors:

“Speaker McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill would result in dramatic cuts to a wide range of programs essential to the health and well-being of our nation’s seniors.” – NCPSSM President Max Richtman, letter to U.S. Congress, 4/25/23

The impasse hangs politics over the heads of 65 million Americans who receive benefits through the Social Security program and the 63 million beneficiaries who receive health care through Medicare. The most vulnerable of America’s seniors are facing the most risk at an unprecedented scale.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare stands with President Biden in his willingness to discuss the budget and deficits with Republicans, but we also support his strong opposition to the GOP holding the economy (and seniors’ earned benefits) hostage.