Social Security default fears grow

The breakdown of the debt talks in Washington mean that a deal between Congress and the White House is now very much in doubt on the debt limit. If the government does default, the people who rely on Social Security may end up being the first to get hurt. CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller shows us what's at stake.

For 26 years, Mattie Jones worked as a nurse's assistant in South Florida. She earned enough to raise three children -- but not enough to save for retirement. Now 69, Jones completely depends on her monthly Social Security check.

"I get $955. Nine hundred and fifty-five dollars," said Jones. "Every month."

Jones' next check and rent bill are both due August 3 - the same day a debt ceiling deadlock could stop the U.S. Treasury Dept. from sending out checks.

Earlier this month, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley asked Obama specifically about those Social Security checks.

"I cannot guarantee those checks go out on August 3 if we haven't resolved this issue because there may simply not be enough money in the coffers to do it,'' said Obama.

"It's scary," said Jones, "You know, because you don't know what's going to happen."

Nearly 55 million people received Social Security benefits in June. That monthly check was the primary source of income for nine million recipients age 65 and older. Many, like Mattie, also depend on government funded services like this meal plan at her local senior center.

Now her most important daily meal could be on the chopping block.

But seniors aren't the only ones at risk.

More than 4 million beneficiaries are children like 10-year old Anthony Hines.

Anthony has autism. His mother Claudia Pachon is a single parent. She had to quit her full time bank job, and take part time work without benefits to find time to care for her son.

Pachon gets $400 a month from Social Security to help make up the difference.

"Basically, for me, it would be a total disaster," said Pachon.

Government money also covers the cost of Anthony's special needs school.

"Everyday you've got to struggle with your daily life. Sometimes, I don't even want to think about the future ... I just live the day I have. I just pray that everything is going to get better, not worse,'' said Pachon, breaking into tears.

On Aug. 3, Pachon, Jones and 27 million other Americans could find the system they paid into -- does not have the he money to pay them back.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.