**10/3/2013 Update here**
With the Times-Picayune reporting that David Vitter supports a government shutdown in the fall, many New Orleans-area Social Security Disability claimants and recipients are wondering how a government shutdown would affect them and their benefits.
Will I still receive my Social Security Disability benefits if the government shuts down?
If the government should ever shut down again as it did in 1995, all Social Security payments will most likely continue to be sent out on time. This includes Social Security Disability.
During the last major shutdown, which lasted about a month, the Social Security Administration mailed checks throughout the shutdown. Social Security was able to continue mailing benefits due to the fact that doesn’t need Congress to authorize funds for it each year. Instead, Social Security benefits are considered mandatory spending and are paid from the program’s trust fund, and therefore the agency has the funds to continue paying benefits. In 1995, Social Security maintained enough employees to continue mailing checks without delay.
Since payments are now direct deposited and/or loaded onto debit cards, Social Security could most likely continue processing payments with fewer employees than were needed to mail benefit checks during the 1995 shutdowns. The SSA‘s 2011 government shutdown contingency plan stated that benefits would continue to be paid as scheduled.
What happens to my scheduled Social Security Disability hearing if the government shuts down?
Most likely, hearing offices will continue to hold Social Security Disability and SSI hearings if a shutdown occurs. According to the SSA’s 2011 government shutdown contingency plan, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) would still hold hearings, but staffing will only be Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), medical experts, vocational experts, and security personnel. Lack of support personnel would most likely cause delays in scheduling hearings, exhibiting files and writing decisions.
What happens to my Social Security Disability application if the government shuts down?
During the Clinton-era shutdown, new Social Security claims were not being processed because the agency furloughed 61,415 employees. As the shutdown wore on, the agency adjusted its plan and recalled workers to start processing new claims. Whether new claims are processed at all or with delay due to less workers will depend on how many employees the SSA decides to maintain and how many they decide to furlough.
The SSA’s 2011 government shutdown contingency plan stated that new and pending Social Security applications would continue to be processed as well as requests for appeals. The most likely scenario is that applications will be processed but with some delay. The delay will be dependent on how many employees are retained and how long the shutdown lasts.
Most of the time, threats of a shutdown are averted at the last minute. Hopefully the same happens this time.