14. Would Social Security payments be delayed if the debt limit isn't raised?
Social Security has never missed a payment, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. When Congress threatened to let the Treasury default in 2011, AARP sent a letter to the president insisting that Social Security payments should "continue to be made regardless of congressional action to raise the debt ceiling."
15. What about Medicare and Medicaid?
Again, because there has never been a default, it is unclear what could happen to these programs. Politico reported widespread uncertainty during the debt ceiling crisis in 2011.
16. Could the economic fallout be widespread?
That's what many economic experts predict, an especially unnerving prospect for those still trying to regain retirement savings lost in the Great Recession. A delay in raising the debt ceiling before near default in 2011 resulted in the first-ever downgrade in the U.S. credit rating and a sharp drop in the stock market.
17. What impact would the second year of sequestration have?
In 2013, sequestration cut about $85 billion in equal parts from national security and other spending. Unless Congress acts, similar cuts will hit early in 2014 and for eight subsequent years.
18. What impact would sequestration have on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs?
There's no change in any of the benefits.
19. What does the health care law have to do with anything? The U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, and plans available from its health insurance marketplace, which is now open, take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Some members of Congress are still determined to withhold funding for the health care law, often called Obamacare. Some made it a reason for the government shutdown, some want to make that a condition for raising the debt ceiling.
20. What impact could the budget battles have on Social Security and Medicare?
Among the proposals to cut spending, we can expect to keep seeing some that would harm Social Security and Medicare.
Kim Keister is the news and politics editor at AARP Media.
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