9 On Your Side Team Coverage

Debt ceiling: Will seniors get their social security checks?

CREATED Jul 31, 2011

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Reporter: Steve Nuñez

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - With the clock still ticking down to the debt deadline, Republican and Democrats are close to a deal raising the U.S. debt limit and avoiding a federal default. Meanwhile, thousands of seniors, who rely on their social security checks to pay their bills, are feeling very worried about not knowing what to expect next month.

Still, 80-year old Marge Oravetz remained glued to CNN's coverage of the debt ceiling debate.

"I am very frustrated, I am very very frustrated, I think," said Oravetz as she paused and then raised her arms in disgust. "You don't see that?"

Without a debt deal, the retired federal worker is uncertain if she'll get her social security and retirement checks in time to pay next months bills.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked: "Yet, you remain glued to the TV?"

"That way you know what is being done and who's not doing anything," answered Oravetz.

And just as lawmakers raised hopes of striking a deal her frustration sky-rocketed after the Senate voted down Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid's compromise proposal.
But 9 On Your Side has learned, an expected last minute deal could still impact millions of seniors like Oravetz.

Evelia Martinez, a lending specialist with Pima County's Don't Borrow Trouble, an unbiased non-profit organization that provides financial education, told KGUN9 News social security checks could be delayed next month.  

"The Secretary of Treasury has the ability to decide in what order things will get paid. Will it be the payroll of the military? Will it be social security?," said Martinez. "And if the money is not coming in proportionately to what we need to spend there might be a gap."

Martinez said, based on her experience, the federal government can take up to 180 days to fully implement changes that may have to be made in the debt plan.

Still, Oravetz blames Americans for not getting involved sooner. That's why she says she'll continue to call congressional leaders and the White House to voice her concerns.

Nuñez asked: "Do you believe that your phone calls made a difference?"

"Yes, I do," answered Oravetz. "I really do and I'll keep going at it."

President Obama has already warned there's no guarantee social security checks will go out on the third of August if a debt-ceiling deal is not reached by Monday night's midnight deadline.

Martinez said seniors who receive their checks later in the month could also become victims of this debt crisis. According to Martinez, if credit rating agencies lower the credit rating of the United States, that means the government will have to borrow money at a higher interest rate and that could also delay the process.