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How will the government shutdown affect SSDI and SSI benefits?

As you’re probably aware, the federal government shutdown began on Tuesday after Congress, for the first time in 17 years, was unable to agree on a budget resolution. The federal fiscal year begins n Oct. 1, which means that the laws allowing annual federal spending expired, and no further expenditures can be made.

If you’re a beneficiary of SSDI or SSI, you’re probably wondering if you’ll continue to get your monthly benefit checks. You can stop worrying: Social Security disability payments will keep coming on schedule.

If you’re curious about why, it has to do with a very old law called the Antideficiency Act. Originally passed in 1884, the Act prohibits the federal government from taking on financial obligations that it might find itself legally unable to meet. That doesn’t mean the government can’t pay with IOUs -- it just means that when it decides to spend money, it has to set up a specific plan for how to pay for it.

In the case of an ongoing obligation like Social Security disability benefits, Congress isn’t allowed to have a plan it would have to reauthorize every year, because future Congresses would then have the authority not to do so. An ongoing promise has to be set up with an ongoing plan for keeping it.

As a result, all they activities necessary for continuing to process SSDI and SSI payments are exempt from the government shutdown. Local Social Security Administration offices are expected to remain open, but only to perform limited activities. Since local SSA offices are staffed by state employees, the processing of new claims and denial reconsiderations are expected to continue, but it is unclear whether there will be delays. Appeals to Social Security administrative law judges have been put on hold until the shutdown is over.

Medicaid isn’t exempt from the shutdown, but it is expected to continue to operate under the shutdown because Congress passed advance appropriations to get money to state Medicaid programs before Oct. 1. However, there may be some additional delays in payments to healthcare providers, some of which are already suffering from long-term cash flow issues because of previous payment delays. If the government shutdown lasts for a long time, some providers have warned they may simply be unable to continue taking Medicaid patients.

Source: Disability Scoop, "What The Shutdown Means For Disability Services," Michelle Diament, Oct. 1, 2013

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