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How does a federal shutdown affect SSDI or VA benefits?

In January, the federal government shut down for a few days until Congress patched together a deal that appropriated sufficient funds to get it running again for a few weeks. The possibility of another shutdown looms on the horizon unless lawmakers come up with a more long-term solution. What does this mean for Georgians who rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Veterans (VA) benefits to make ends meet?

When the government shuts down, it's because Congress has not appropriated funds from the budget to operate for the next fiscal period. Fortunately, payments such as SSDI benefits and VA benefits do not come from annual appropriations. Social Security benefits - whether SSD, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security Retirement - come from a long-term trust fund that workers have paid into over the course of the careers.

Veterans benefits, including retirement, disability, and survivor payments, are also paid from long-term funds that do not require annual appropriation. Both the Veterans' and Social Security Administrations have contingency plans in place that will preserve core services in the event of a shutdown. However, many workers in the agencies will be furloughed and any functions deemed non-essential will be halted, such as the issuance of Social Security cards and the parts of the claims process.

Thus, new claimants will have a longer wait for a benefits decision or hearing to occur. Given the already lengthy wait times in the claims processes, a shutdown would be an unfortunate event. But folks who are already relying on VA or SSD benefits to meet their financial obligations can still expect to receive their benefits payments.

Source: Business Insider, "Here's what happens to Social Security and disability benefits during a government shutdown," Bob Bryan, Jan. 20, 2018

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