While these entitlement programs were absent from the President's speech, together they take up almost all of the government's mandatory spending.
"The harm of neglecting them is they're underfunded," said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Tax Policy Center. "There is a cliff we're going to face in a few decades, at which point the programs won't have enough to pay their beneficiaries. Real people would lose the benefits they need."
Social Security provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to qualifying recipients, the bulk of whom are age 65 or older. The Social Security trust fund, which helps support it, is projected to be depleted by 2035. At that point, unless changes are made, recipients will receive only about 75 percent of benefits, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees.
Medicare, which provides healthcare coverage for some 50 million older Americans, is also in jeopardy.