What Happens to Social Security Disability During Government Shutdown?

What Happens to Social Security Disability
During the Government Shutdown?

With the federal government shutdown going into effect for a few days this month – and another one looming in February – many Social Security Disability recipients are concerned about their benefits. In this article our experienced Long Beach Social Security lawyers explain what a government shutdown means for both people who are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, and for individuals who are in (or starting) the application process.

If You Are Already Receiving Social Security Disability

In all likelihood Social Security Disability recipients who have already been receiving benefits will continue to receive their money without interruption during a government shutdown.

The federal government previously shut down in 1995 and again in 2013, and during those shutdowns all types of Social Security payments continued to be sent out on time. This included Social Security Disability.

Social Security is able to continue paying benefits, because Social Security benefits are considered mandatory spending and are paid from the program’s trust fund – so they do NOT need Congress to authorize funds for it in the budget each year. However, while the benefits are protected during a shutdown, the employees of the Social Security Administration are still subject to layoff or “furlough”.

During the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns, Social Security did maintain enough employees on its staff to continue mailing checks. Additionally, many Social Security payments are now direct deposited and/or loaded onto debit cards, so far fewer employees are now needed to process benefit payments.

So, in all likelihood, if you are already receiving Social Security Disability, your payments will continue without interruption during a government shutdown.

If You Are in the Social Security Disability Process

During the 2013 shutdown, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) continued to hold all previously scheduled Social Security hearings, but staffing was limited to Administrative Law Judges, medical and vocational experts, and security employees.

So, more than likely, Social Security offices will also continue to hold already scheduled hearings during a 2018 shutdown.

However, new hearings were not scheduled during the 2013 shutdown because the SSA furloughed 61,415 employees. So it is likely that new hearings may not be scheduled during a 2018 shutdown.

Additionally, lack of support staff caused delays in writing of the decisions that were handed down during 2013’s shutdown. So, even when benefits were granted there was a further delay and those benefits were not paid until the shutdown ended, because the decision was not actually formally written.

Likely Outcome of Shutdown on Social Security Disability

Whether new claims are processed at all – and/or they are processed but delayed – will depend upon how many employees the SSA decides to furlough during the current government shutdown.

The Social Security Administration’s 2013 Shutdown Contingency Plan states that new and pending applications and requests for appeals should continue to be processed. But, because these functions are carried out by each individual state’s Disability Determination Offices, it remains to be seen if California will decide to continue operations or stop them if another government shutdown occurs.

The best case scenario is that a shutdown will not last very long and have minimal impact on existing and new hearings. In any event applications will still likely be processed to some extent – but with varying delays due to staff layoffs.

The bottom line, any way you slice it, is that Social Security hearings and decisions will be delayed during a shutdown – but the true impact won’t be known until it is seen how many employees are retained and how long a shutdown lasts.

Social Security Disability Lawyers in Long Beach CA

If you are a Social Security applicant, keep in touch with our office. We will keep up with the latest events. And our Long Beach Social Security lawyers will be happy to advise you on how any government shutdowns will affect you, depending upon the current status of your claim.

Call our Social Security Lawyers for a Free Consultation: 562-622-4800