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Seniors concerned about Social Security amid debt limit uncertainty

Amid political back-and-forth over the debt limit, Scripps News spoke with retirees who are concerned about the future of their Social Security check.
Seniors concerned about Social Security amid debt limit uncertainty
Posted at 3:35 PM, May 29, 2023

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck a deal on the debt ceiling over the weekend in a step toward averting what many experts say could have been a financial disaster for the U.S. 

But weeks of political back and forth left many American seniors on edge, concerned Social Security checks could've been delayed.

For Claudia and John Vrabel of Westminster, Maryland, their golden years have come in a palette of colors. At 76, John Vrabel has found passion in gardening at his Maryland home.

"I've always had a garden, and had to work in one as a kid," John Vrabel said.

But these days these two retirees are concerned with one color in particular — green.

The Vrabels are on a fixed income. They get $2,100 a month from Social Security, which helps pay bills, buy groceries and pay the mortgage.

SEE MORE: What will happen to Social Security if government defaults on debt?

But for the Vrabels — and millions of other Americans — it's been a nerve-wracking few weeks.

Political back-and-forth over the debt ceiling left them wondering if their Social Security check might be delayed.

"That would kill us," Claudia Vrabel said. "I don't know how we'd manage. Where are we gonna get money from? The only thing I can do is borrow money off the house."

By Monday, it appeared Social Security checks wouldn't be delayed, as it would be highly unlikely the U.S. will now default on its debt obligations.

"It's irresponsible to be playing political games with a population that has worked hard, played by the rules," said Ramsey Alwin, CEO of the National Council on Aging.

An estimated 69.1 million people receive Social Security in this country, and 97% of them are seniors.

"Americans are already starting to see some of the pressure this whole debate is imposing on the economy," said Olivia Mitchell, a professor at the Wharton School.

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