How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Social Security Disability?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) started planning for a government shutdown years before the political logjam stopped everything cold October 1, 2013. The SSA submitted its updated contingency plan on September 25, 2013. This detailed what functions the SSA would continue and which ones would be discontinued in case of a shutdown. Who works and who doesn't? In December 2011, the SSA submitted a contingency plan to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This plan was detailed what activities the SSA would continue “during a potential lapse in Federal appropriations, resulting in a partial shutdown of agency operations.” As noted, an updated plan was submitted to OMB shortly before the current shutdown. The SSA has authority under the Antideficiency Act to except certain employees because their functions are considered essential. Which positions are “excepted” are determined by each agency. There are certain functions that are required to keep the government running at the absolute minimum level: Those employees who provide for national security stay on the job. This includes the military. Those employees who protect life and property, like air traffic controllers, federal prison guards, law enforcement personnel, and a few others. Those employees responsible for sending out benefits like Social Security and veteran's benefits. The U.S. Postal Service and Federal Reserve will be open because they have independent funding sources. And, of course, Congress continues to get paid, but many members of their staff will be furloughed. Information from the Washington Post While these employees will continue to work, they will not get paid until the government is back up and running. The SSA plan The SSA notes that some of its functions must continue under the Necessary Implication exception. In 1981, the U.S. Attorney General stated “the Necessary Implication exception allows a limited number of Government functions funded through annual appropriations to continue despite a lapse in their appropriations because the lawful continuation of other activities necessarily implies that these functions continue as well.” Because Social Security benefits, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, and Supplemental Security Income payments are from specific trust funds already set aside from general revenue and not dependent upon annual appropriations, disbursement of funds is an activity permitted under this necessary implication exception. While SSA employees are paid from annual appropriations, those who distribute funds have functions that cannot be disrupted and those employees will be excepted. The SSA stated “with respect to our adjudication of claims for benefits, we will continue limited service in our hearing offices in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Our approach in ODAR could evolve over time depending on the length of the shutdown. We will also retain a limited number of SSA employees and necessary law enforcement agents from our Office of the Inspector General under the protection of life and property exception.” While this political showdown continues, those who have benefits will continue receiving their checks. The SSA will continue work on appeals of SSD benefit denials that are already scheduled. If you are thinking of applying for benefits, have applied for benefits, or have been denied and want to appeal, there may be delays in the process, but our experienced attorney can help you with your questions and your case even amid this period of uncertainty.