The Government Shutdown: How Does it Affect Social Security?

With the federal government partially shutdown, Social Security disability clients wonder how it will affect their cases and payments. The good news is that those who already receive Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should continue receiving any payments owed to them and any pending cases should proceed.  However, some delays may occur due to worker furloughs.

The current partial federal government shutdown involves appropriations for nine federal departments that receive funds annually appropriated by Congress—Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury.  Currently these departments are unfunded, causing the shutdown.

However, only about a quarter of the entire federal government is affected by this shutdown.   That is because earlier this year, Congress passed five spending bills for sustained long-term expenditures. Those bills funded the Departments of Labor, Energy, Defense, Health and Human Services and Education and Veterans Affairs.

The Department of Health and Human Services contains the Social Security Administration (SSA).  In addition, the Social Security trust fund is paid for through a combination of taxes and long-term investments.

In preparation for this shutdown, the SSA released a contingency plan. According to the plan, most core programs and benefits are continuing.   Social Security Disability and SSI benefit checks are going out as before.  Also, disability claims and appeals are proceeding.  Local SSA offices and Hearing offices remain open and previously scheduled hearings and appointments are being held.

The SSA’s plan acknowledges that while it is mostly funded, approximately 53,000 workers are still being furloughed.   Thus, delays in scheduling of hearings and handing down of decisions and processing claims are occurring.  During the 2013 government shutdown, while Social Security and SSI hearings were scheduled and held, a backlog in written decisions occurred.

To read SSA’s contingency plan, click here

(https://www.ssa.gov/agency/shutdown/materials/contingency-plan-09-25-18.pdf