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Debt Ceiling Fight Could Put Your Federal Benefits At Risk

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Blank Social Security Checks

Blank Social Security checks (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – If you don’t think the upcoming federal debt ceiling deadline will impact you, it might – if you’re expecting a check in the mail.

As CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports, millions of Social Security, disability and veteran’s benefits appear to be in jeopardy amid the debate in Washington over the federal debt ceiling.

Chicagoan Helen Giles is emotional.

“To hear what the President said on the news today, tears just came to my eyes,” she said.

It was a CBS News interview that has Giles so worried. President Barack Obama was speaking about how Social Security and other government entitlement checks, including veteran’s benefits, might not be paid if the federal debt ceiling is not raised by Congress by the Aug. 2 deadline.

CBS Anchor Scott Pelley asked, “Can you guarantee as President those checks will go out on August 3rd?”

The President’s answer, “I cannot guarantee that those checks will go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”

Giles, a South Side resident, went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital again on Tuesday. With heart disease, diabetes and waiting for a kidney transplant, she goes there often. She gets Social Security disability benefits amounting to $770 a month.

“I just go from month to month,” she says.

Congressional Republicans say if they don’t get the massive budget cuts they want, they won’t vote to raise the ceiling.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asks, “Where is the President’s plan? When is he going to lay his cards on the table? This debt limit increase is his problem.”

A spokesman for the nation’s largest senior citizen lobbying group says the President’s concern is “valid.”

Heather Huppner with AARP Chicago says, “Now is not the time for irresponsible rhetoric and playing politics with the hard earned benefits for Social Security recipients.”

Helen Giles puts it simply. If her checks stop coming, “I might as well die.”

Some experts warn that failure to raise the ceiling could cause U.S. stock prices to fall dramatically and drive the economy deeper into recession. Many Republicans don’t believe it.

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