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Potential 2013 Government Shutdown Impact: SSDI

2013 September 26
by Steve Perrigo

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) checks would continue to be issued under a potential government shutdown.  Funding for SSDI is received through payroll taxes collected through states and the IRS, whom would both remain functioning under a shutdown.  Additionally, the US mail delivery would remain operating normally.  During the last government shutdown that took place in 1995, checks were mailed out on time.   Interestingly, in 1995 61,415 workers were initially furloughed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), with only 4,780 retained to perform essential functions.  Quickly it was discovered that there was no way the agency could provide acceptable service with the dramatically reduced workforce, and within a week, President Clinton called back ~50,000 staffers back to work.  We can only assume this experience would be factored into a decision today.

According to SSA’s 2011 government shutdown contingency plan, the  Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) would still hold hearings, but staffing would be limited to just Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), medical experts, vocational experts and security personnel.  Lacking for this contingency planning is necessary support staffing, whom assist with hearing scheduling and day-to-day administrative duties.  Processing times and inventory levels are all but certain to rise under this scenario.

The Washington Post published an article this afternoon titled “Shutdown uncertainty generates angst and rumors among federal employees” that touches on some of the events related to SSA during the 1995 government shutdown and includes some current information from Bill Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

But as of late Wednesday, “I’m not hearing a lot, which is disconcerting,” said Bill Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.  “There’s been little or no communication from agencies to labor.  We haven’t been notified about their plans or anything…. If employees are not hearing from the agency… it really puts them in a kind of limbo.”

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