At midnight on Jan. 19, 2018, the United States government shut down for almost three days.
Since the country's modern budgeting laws were put into place in the 1970s, there have been 18 government shutdowns, the first six of which did not affect the functioning of the government.
Today, when the government shuts down, all government programs that are not essential to preserving the safety and security of the country and its citizens are closed.
This can have a significant impact on many citizens and can leave many wondering how a government shutdown will affect their lives. For those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the impact should be minimal.
What is a Government Shutdown?
The federal government is run based on a budget that provides money and funding to all federal agencies, departments and programs.
Every year, Congress must pass legislation stating how the government's money should be divided up between the programs. If Congress fails to pass a bill outlining how the federal government's money should be spent, or if the President does not sign the bill passed by Congress, the government will shut down on the date that the previously approved funding is set to expire. In 2018, that date was Jan. 19 at midnight.
Once this happens, all nonessential services and functions of the federal government must close until lawmakers can agree on a budget.
However, this does not mean all federal government operations shut down. Certain programs are considered essential, such as the military, public safety operations and Medicare payments.
How Disability Benefits are Affected
The SSA is unique from many government programs in that its budget is not set annually by Congress because it is funded by a specific Social Security tax taken out of workers' paychecks.
According to the SSA's shutdown contingency plan provided to the Office of Budget, Finance and Management each year, most programs and benefits provided by the SSA will continue during a shutdown. However, if the shutdown continues for more than five days, some functions will be further limited.
Under the contingency plan, payments for SSDI, SSI and other programs provided by the SSA will continue as scheduled, which means there should be no change in the dates these payments are made.
However, as was posted on the SSA's website during the shutdown, the agency will provide limited services at local field offices during the shutdown. These offices will continue to be able to:
- Accept applications for Social Security Disability benefits
- Help applicants appeal a disability benefits claim denial
- Change addresses or direct deposit information for beneficiaries
- Accept reports of death
- Replace lost or missing Social Security payments
- Change the representative payee for a minor or disabled beneficiary
Although the SSA will be able to accept applications for benefits, the shutdown could slow down the process for receiving a decision on your claim.
The offices will not be able to renew or replace Social Security cards, replace Medicare cards, issue proof-of-income letters, or update earnings records during the shutdown. However, these services will continue to be available online.
Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer
Our trusted team of disability attorneys located in Phoenix is experienced in helping individuals who are applying for disability benefits and have been denied the benefits they need. To learn more about how our attorneys can help you, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We accept cases on a contingency fee basis and will not charge for handling your claim unless you receive benefits.