Will the government shut down affect Social Security Disability?

Brad Myler

With the recent shut down of the government due to the House and the Senate unable to agree on a bill to fund the government, it is natural to wonder how far reaching the affects of a shutdown government will be. In the words of President Obama, “the shutdown will have a very real impact on real people right away.” Those individuals who are furloughed government employees have already felt the negative affects of the government shut down. In fact, more than 800,000 government employees are now faced with a difficult interim while the government tries to figure things out. Some of the “essential” employees still have an opportunity to work, while the “non-essential” ones are being sent home.

However, keep in mind that nobody is getting paid which means a lot of Americans are currently working for free. In addition, one way in which the government shut down will have a real impact on people is through Social Security Disability. Let’s first explore what Social Security Disability actually is. This is a government-funded program that provides income to people who are unable to work for a period of a year or more because of an injury. Now there are some stipulations as to who qualifies for this assistance.

First of all you must have been previous working for a job that was covered by Social Security. If you meet this qualification, you must then have an injury that is covered. These have to be severed medical impairments that are in fact quite debilitating. Something to put your mind at ease is that even with the shutdown of the government you can expect payments to still come out according to your weekly payment date says the bulletin on the Social Security website. However, if you are just starting the application process there might be delays. If the shutdown lasts for a considerable length of time, you may find that your checks will begin to become delayed at some point due to the diminished amount of workers processing these requests.

In the past shutdowns have lasted anywhere from five to twenty one days so we are still in the early stages since it officially started just two days ago. Since there is a limited amount of government works in the field offices only the following services will be available: helping you apply for benefits, assistance with requesting an appeal, changes in your home address or direct deposit information, accepting reports of death, verifying or changing your citizen status, replacing a lost payment, issuing critical payments or changing a representative payee. So from research it seems that individuals who receive Social Security Disability aren’t too affected by the government shutdown, which is nice. The Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance and Management wrote in a letter regarding SSA contingency plan that, “we are committed to ensuring that, consistent with the strains of a partial shutdown, we conform with applicable law, regulation, and guidance, yet continue to serve the American people in these difficult times.”


Simon Moya-Smith and Andrew Rafferty (2013). A government shutdown: What could it look like?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/29/20745618-a-government-shutdown-what-could-it-look-like?lite. [Last Accessed 03 October 13].

Peter D. Spencer (2013). SSA Contingency Plan. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/shutdown2013.pdf. [Last Accessed 03 October 13].

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