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Social Security to Worried Seniors: ‘We don’t know’

July 29, 2011


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The risk of a U.S. default has incited panic among many older Americans, who are now calling the Social Security Administration to find out what's going to happen to their monthly benefits if the debt ceiling isn't raised by Aug. 2.

In response, the Social Security Administration has posted very specific instructions on its web site for how the representatives who are handling inquiries from the general public should respond.

The script is short, to the point — and not very comforting: "We're sorry but we don't know."

Social Security representatives are instructed to direct media inquiries to a regional communications staff. However, no one answered the phone when CNNMoney put in a call to the main press office.

As the deadline to lift the debt ceiling draws near, concerns are mounting that the U.S. won't be able to afford to send out checks to the millions of seniors citizens who rely on Social Security benefits each month.

About 54% of married couples and 73% of unmarried Americans receive at least half of their income from Social Security, according to the administration. A whopping 43% of unmarried people and 22% of married couples rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

But for now, there's nothing the Social Security Administration can do to calm the nerves of the 28 million Americans expecting checks on Aug. 3 — and the additional 27 million beneficiaries who are expecting their payments later in the month.


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