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How Social Security Would Be Affected By A Government Shutdown

The government is threatening a shutdown this week, leaving many to wonder how Social Security would be affected, one of the many questions of how a government shutdown could affect you

One answer is simple: You will continue to receive your Social Security checks even if the U.S. government shuts down on Saturday, the Social Security Administration (SSA) said in its latest contingency plans for a potential government shutdown.

“We will continue activities critical to our direct-service operations and those needed to ensure accurate and timely payment of benefits,” the agency said in an Aug. 14 letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the plans. Other services that SSA said it plans to continue include application for benefits, requests for appeals, payee changes, direct contact reinstatement of benefits, issuance of original and replacement Social Security cards, initial claims, and assistance requests for hearings.

The SSA would, however, be partially closed, with 8,512 of its 61,869 workers furloughed during a shutdown. Services that are not directly related to payment benefits and those not critical to direct-service operations would stop until the government reopens, SSA said in the letter. Should the shutdown last more than five days, the SSA would re-evaluate the number of employees necessary to perform critical operations, as it did during the 2013 shutdown.

Social Security payments are funded under a trust, which is not part of the annual appropriations process that lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been wrangling over intently for weeks. House and Senate members are out Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah.

They have until midnight Sept. 30 to pass 12 appropriations bills for fiscal 2024 to keep the government funded or agree on a short-term measure, referred to as a continuing resolution, to buy themselves more time to come to an agreement. If they fail to do one or the other, the government begins a shutdown on Oct. 1 and with it a number of public services.

According to the SSA letter, services set to be paused should a shutdown occur include:

  • Benefit verifications
  • Earnings record corrections and updates
  • Payee accountings
  • Prisoner activities–suspension
  • Requests from third parties for queries
  • Freedom of Information Act requests
  • IT enhancement activities, public relations, and training
  • Replacement Medicare cards
  • Overpayments processing

In a Sept. 21 statement, Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees union, criticized House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for allowing the House to go home instead of staying to work out a federal budget to keep the government running. McCarthy has been under immense pressure to unite House Republicans and avoid a shutdown.

“Tens of thousands of federal employees will be on duty this weekend taking care of veterans, patrolling our border, protecting air and rail travel, and serving our military troops overseas,” Kelley said. “They don’t get to leave work until the job is done, and neither should members of Congress.”

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