Baby Boomer #1 Applies For Social Security

Retirement: Pensive older person, Hands hold money over a social security card.
The nation's first baby boomer applied for Social Security benefits Monday, signaling the start of an expected avalanche of applications from the post World War II war generation.

Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, a former teacher from New Jersey, applied for benefits over the Internet at an event attended by Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue. Casey-Kirschling, who now lives in Maryland, was born one second after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, making her the first baby boomer, a generation of nearly 80 million born from 1946 to 1964, Astrue said.

Casey-Kirschling, a self-described optimist, says she's confident Social Security will still be there for her children and grandchildren, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

But experts say don't be so sure. A staggering 77 million baby boomers will begin cashing in on Social Security over the next 20 years, leaving it with a long-term shortfall of about $15 trillion.

The Social Security trust fund, if left alone, is projected to go broke in 2041, though Astrue said he hopes Congress will address the issue, perhaps after the 2008 presidential election.

An estimated 10,000 people a day will become eligible for Social Security benefits over the next two decades, Astrue said.