Will Social Security be late?

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Will the Social Security checks go out this month if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling? The Bipartisan Policy Center raises doubts.

The federal government’s current situation is a lot like yours and mine if we didn’t have enough income to pay the bills and each month we put one or two on a credit card. At some point, we slam up against our credit limit, and we have to decide which bills to pay. The federal government faces the same dilemma. Who should it pay first — Social Security disability recipients, or Social Security retirees, or disabled veterans, or government contractors?

Yes, Social Security is currently bringing in more money than it spends, but there is nothing in current law that makes Social Security’s bills take priority over any other federal obligations. “If they delay payments, then Social Security just stands in line with everything else,” Shai Akabas, a senior economic policy staffer at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told The Washington Post. “Social Security does not necessarily receive any special treatment because it has its own trust fund. It gets paid out of cash, like everything else.”

Such retirement organizations as AARP are lobbying the Obama administration to step in and give Social Security a higher priority, and maybe that will happen. But there are no guarantees. The law says that Social Security’s obligations must be met, but it also obligates the government to pay its other bills.

The Bipartisan Policy Center says it is likely that unless Congress reaches some agreement to raise the debt ceiling this week, the Social Security payments that are normally made on Oct. 23 would be delayed by two days. Those scheduled to go out on Nov. 1 could be delayed by 12 days.

If you expect a check during that window, now might be a good time to figure out a Plan B in case it doesn’t arrive.

What a retirement planning fiasco.