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How Will a Government Shutdown Affect My Social Security Disability?


Whether you’re currently receiving benefits, waiting for a hearing, or about to submit your initial application, the term “government shutdown” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Many Hoosiers are worried about how a potential government shutdown may affect their Social Security disability benefits. Regardless of whether or not the federal government shuts down at midnight tonight or any other time, it’s a good idea to know how a shutdown may affect your benefits.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how a government shutdown would affect Social Security disability.

Will I Continue Receiving Benefits During a Government Shutdown?

Yes. Social Security in general is a mandatory program. That means that it isn’t affected if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill; it receives its funding elsewhere. Because your disability benefits are part of Social Security, you will continue to receive your monthly payments.

Will I Have My Social Security Disability Hearing During a Government Shutdown?

Probably. If your hearing is already scheduled, there’s a good chance you’ll still have it. During previous government shutdowns, the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), previously known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), continued to hold hearings.

odarHowever, it’s worth noting that Social Security’s staff numbers will likely be affected by the shutdown. Social Security’s funding for benefits is mandatory, but funding for paying its employees is not. Social Security may see a decrease in personnel during the shutdown. During the government shutdown in 2013, for example, hearings continued, but diminished staff caused delays in exhibiting files and writing decisions. That could mean that if you have your hearing and you’re approved for benefits, there could still be a delay in starting your payments.

Will Social Security Process My Application During a Government Shutdown?

It depends. Because Social Security will likely be short-staffed during a shutdown, there may be a delay in processing new applications. During the government shutdown during the 1990s, new applications weren’t processed at first. However, as the shutdown continued, Social Security decided to start processing applications again.

Social Security applied the lessons it learned during the 1990s shutdown to the 2013 shutdown. They planned to continue processing new applications from the beginning as well as requests for reconsideration. However, it’s actually the Disability Determination Bureau (DDB) that evaluates new applications and requests for reconsideration, and the DDB is a state-run part of the federal Social Security agency. That means that whether or not applications and appeals will be processed may be left up to the states.

Most likely, the DDB will continue to process applications and appeals, but your decision may be delayed if the shutdown continues for more than a few days.

What Should I Do During a Government Shutdown to Protect My Claim?

The best thing you can do to protect your claim during a government shutdown is to continue as if the government is still open. That means continuing to go to your doctor’s appointments and calling your Social Security disability attorney if there are any changes to your contact information or medical condition. That also means meeting all normal deadlines for applications, requests for reconsideration, and requests for hearings.

Even if the government shuts down, your Social Security disability attorney and your case manager will be hard at work on your claim. They’ll make sure any paperwork is submitted before any deadlines and continue preparing for your hearing under the assumption that it won’t be delayed.

Help from an Indiana Social Security Disability Lawyer

Even if the government shuts down tonight, Hensley Legal Group won’t. Our disability attorneys, case managers, legal assistants, and intake specialists will be hard at work filing disability claims on behalf of Hoosiers. We’ll continue to request reconsiderations and request hearings if our clients’ applications or appeals are denied, and we’ll continue building solid cases in anticipation of our clients’ scheduled hearings.

If you have any questions about how a government shutdown may affect your claim, or if you’re interested in filing an application or receiving representation for a hearing, Hensley Legal Group can help. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.