How Social Security Would Be Affected By A Government Shutdown

How Social Security would be affected by a government shutdown, including what happens to checks and what services would be paused.

The Capitol building in Washington, DC
(Image credit: Rudy Sulgan, Getty Images)

Another month and there's another round of discussions to ward off a government shutdown, which is leaving people to wonder how Social Security would be affected, one of the many questions of how a government shutdown could affect you

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is one of the government agencies that has put together detailed contingency plans, outlining the services that it would continue (and pause) in the event of a shutdown. In their letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the agency advised that: 

“We will continue activities critical to our direct-service operations and those needed to ensure accurate and timely payment of benefits.” 

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So, one thing is clear — even if the U.S. government shuts down you will continue to receive your Social Security checks and disability payments. The reason that Social Security payments will continue is that they are considered "mandatory spending" and they are funded under a trust, which is not part of the annual appropriations process.

Social Security services that would not be affected

Services that the SSA say it plans to continue include:

  • Payment of Social Security checks
  • Applications for benefits
  • Requests for appeals
  • Payee changes
  • Direct contact reinstatement of benefits
  • Issuance of original and replacement Social Security cards
  • Initial claims
  • Assistance requests for hearings

Social Security services that would be paused

During a shutdown, the SSA would be partially closed — with around 8,500 of its 61,869 workers furloughed. 

Services that are not directly related to payment benefits and those not critical to direct-service operations would stop until the government reopens, the SSA said. If the shutdown lasted more than five days, the SSA would re-evaluate the number of employees necessary to perform critical operations, as it did during the 2013 shutdown.

According to the SSA, services that are set to be paused should a shutdown occur include:

  • Benefit verifications
  • Earnings record corrections and updates
  • Payee accountings
  • Prisoner activities — suspension
  • Requests from third parties for queries
  • Freedom of Information Act requests
  • IT enhancement activities, public relations, and training
  • Replacement Medicare cards
  • Overpayments processing

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Esther D’Amico
Senior News Editor

Esther D’Amico is Kiplinger’s senior news editor. A long-time antitrust and congressional affairs journalist, Esther has covered a range of beats including infrastructure, climate change and the industrial chemicals sector. She previously served as chief correspondent for a financial news service where she chronicled debates in and out of Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the Commerce Department with a particular focus on large mergers and acquisitions. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and in English.