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Federal shutdown: Where's my Social Security check?

The furlough of government employees would cause some pain, particularly to those 800,000 who would have to go without a paycheck.

By Karen Datko Apr 6, 2011 5:54PM

Good news for retirees: If the federal government shuts down late Friday night, those who collect Social Security will continue to receive their checks (mail will be delivered) or direct deposits to their bank accounts. 


But what if you've just applied for benefits? They likely won't be processed immediately.


Here's what happened to Social Security the last time politicians pulled this stunt, way back in 1995, according to Ed O'Keefe at The Washington Post's Federal Eye blog: Post continues after video.

During the first shutdown, about 4,800 agency employees stayed on the job to ensure beneficiaries continued receiving checks, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Another 61,000 other workers had to stay home, but officials quickly reconsidered after realizing they didn't have enough employees available to answer telephone calls from beneficiaries or to process new claims, the report said. Other adjustments were made during the longer shutdown that stretched from Dec. 1995 into Jan. 1996.

There are other possible impacts to personal finances if Congress and the White House can't resolve the budget impasse. A post by Emi Kolawole at Federal Eye answers many of your questions and is being updated regularly as more information emerges this week.


Some details are already known. For instance:

  • New business and homebuying plans may have to be put on hold. The Detroit Free Press says:
New loans from the Small Business Administration would be held up indefinitely. So would new loan guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about a third of the nation's mortgages.
  • Processing of paper tax returns would halt, so if you didn't file electronically, your refund could be delayed. (Another reason to stop doing taxes the old-fashioned way.)
  • If your medical procedure is paid for by Medicare, there might be a delay in processing the payment, but you'll still get the care you need. (Also, the Veterans Health Administration wouldn't be affected.)

No pay, no paychecks

What about the 800,000 or so federal employees who will be deemed nonessential and barred from working during a shutdown? (Federal employees are prohibited by law from donating their time on the job.) Furloughed employees should consult this federal website.


It's yet to be determined whether they will be paid for any forced time off. They were after the last shutdown, but Congress makes that call and you can probably guess how that will go this time around. "It is highly unlikely that about 1 million federal employees who are not working will ever be reimbursed," Rep. James Moran, D-Va., predicted.

Hopefully those "nonessential" employees have anticipated the shutdown and built up an emergency fund to keep paying the bills while they sit at home and wait.

Same goes for the government employees who won't be sent home. The Free Press said:

Essential personnel, including those in the military, those in law enforcement and those responsible for the safety of people and property, would remain on the job. It was in question whether they would receive pay once the government officially runs out of money, however.
For instance, military personnel who remained on the job would still earn their pay but would not actually receive it until a funding bill was passed by Congress.

Other news outlets said military personnel, who will be in the middle of a two-week pay period if and when the government shuts down, will get paid for one week and that's it -- until Congress approves funding again.


And let's not forget the folks who live in the nation's capital. If the government shuts down, trash collection in D.C. will stop.


What do you think about this possible disruption of government services and people's lives -- unnecessary bickering or essential political theater? If you would be affected, what are your plans?


More from MSN Money:

Apr 7, 2011 11:54AM
I wish we could start a grass roots movement to just oust all of these obviously incompetent congressmen and senators that we have in office.  They are elected to do a job. A large part of that job is to get a Federal budget in place prior to 30 September each year.  Can anyone remember when that happened last?  If the normal person, or even some highly paid business executive, was over 6 months late getting a job done, don't you think that would have an adverse affect on their job retention?  Of course, they will blame it on each other. But face it, they are elected to do a job that they are obviously incapable of doing. I'm not picking on one party. They are all incompetent.

This whole deal is idiotic. The use of a government shutdown to get what you wnat is tantamount to extortion. It is really simple. Vote for the cuts you can get a majority on and move on. If you want more then make your case to the voters. If they agree they will vote for you and if they don't they will vote for someone else. This is still rule by the majority. If you have the majority of both houses of congress in sufficient numbers to avoid a filibuster then you get what you want. the only way to get that many votes is through the voters. Frankly I think the posturing on both sides should be grounds for immediate removal. If they have a policy issue then put it up for vote and if it passes both the house and senate fine if not then try again later.

Our whole political system has become so corrupted that it is non functional and maybe it is time to start over.

Apr 7, 2011 12:37PM

If the Democrats won't sign the budget into law, then it shuts down.

They played hardball on healthcare, now it's time to take it back.

So shut it down.

If it were me, I would keep cutting more and more.

Today we cut 45 billion. Tomorrow 60. Next day 75.

After a few weeks, they'll sign anything.

We are broke. We have to stop the Democrat spending spree before we are insolvent.

Great  FEAR article.  No social security, no police, no fire department, no teachers.

Apr 7, 2011 4:04PM
i think maybe all the senators and congress people should go without pay, for sometime, maybe they would come up with a solution,
Apr 7, 2011 12:59PM

HR1 pass in the House to extend the budget for the fiscal year, cutting 100 billion dollars  from  than a trillion budget never approve for Democrats in October last year ( they prefer to deal with more important issues like Obamacare during election time) now we are in this mess , the blame game and the "Little Chicken" scare tactics are in the game  for political gain like Howard Dean said . Democrats do not care aboutt us, do not care abou our 13 trillion dollars debt, they don't care about the 120,000 every taxpayer owe , or the 4 billions a day added to our national debt , they don't care about our future generation and their ability to have economic freedom. We all must tight our belts , why the government no?   

Apr 7, 2011 12:32PM
Reid and Bonehead have got to go,I would like to dunk a few teabags.I wish 2012 was tomorrow.
Apr 7, 2011 1:14PM

We the People started over once before, it's time We the People did again. To all the people in Washington DC, look at Egypt and Libya, how long do you think it would take us to oust you from office? EVERYBODY go home, we are starting over.

I wish you a very, very short career Mr. Boehner.

Apr 7, 2011 2:18PM
Funny how scarey the government is making a shutdown sound. I say shut it down. They ARE the problem.  This is what happens when a government decides to compete with the private sector jobs and controls a country verses allowing a country to run by the creativity of the American people. Take away people's faith, make the government the God that will save you & bam, here ya go! Too much government = total distruction, poverty and an insecure future, heck even an insecure present. Pretty sad but hey, march on. I'm fairly sure I won't even notice unless I happen to read about it! Fear Mongering! What a government! I think everyone should have one just like it. Oh wait! 3rd world countries do!
Apr 7, 2011 1:46PM
 For Fredddd,  Only problem is they screwed up and mis- sent my ss check to the wrong bank.  I waited a few days assumeing the political crap in Washington had delayed its delivery but called today and had a very nice speaking and very efficient government ss employee immediately jump to my aid, call the bank to which it had been sent, and transfer it to my bank immediately.  Before I was off the phone, my ss check was in my account and availible for my use in paying my bills.
Apr 7, 2011 3:49PM

You have to be kidding me!!!!??? Enough already!!! No wonder we are broke! SHUT IT DOWN!



Check snopes for FREE cellphones to welfare recipients from Obama. ENOUGH! CUT!

Apr 7, 2011 3:09PM
Shut It Down! It's a failed government anyways.
Apr 7, 2011 7:33PM

Ryan:  I think part of the opposition comes from the GOP not wanting to cut military spending, which I can see in a time of war, but having spent 20 yrs in the USAF, I can tell you the amount of waste is appalling.


The other GOP position that riles Dems is not wanting to raise taxes on the rich (however you choose to define rich).  It's true they pay a fortune already, but they can best afford a few more percentage points and their contribution would be significant.


If the GOP gives on those two points, I think it would give them a lot more leverage over cutting entitlements and other social programs.

Apr 7, 2011 4:39PM

This is just a minor skirmish compared to what's coming. They have to raise the debt ceiling next. Then they roll right into setting the 2012 budget. Right now they are choking on a gnat. Next up they have to swallow two big elephants.


Runaway spending was fun while it lasted. Now we get  subprime government trying to pay its bills and still give out the candy without the Bernank's printing press. Look out below ! 

Apr 7, 2011 3:59PM
Read the comments on most of the articles on this website.  See all the petty sniping and name-calling, the endless accusations of Obama-this, Democrats-that, Republicans-somethingelse.  There's no middle ground in America anymore; no one can agree on the simplest of things.  And you're wondering why our elected representatives, who are presumably trying to satisfy that part of the electorate that voted them in, can't come together?  Look at yourselves for the answer to that!
Apr 7, 2011 4:06PM
AG999, your words of wisdom will fall on deaf ears.  They'll never get it, what a shame.
Apr 7, 2011 5:53PM

Ryan in Texas:  I don't think we did (compromise).  I think we've been swinging left and right like a pendulum for decades with neither side really cowboying up to fix things.  I blame both parties and the general atmosphere of name-calling and finger-pointing for our current predicament.


Don't get me wrong; I seriously support drastic spending cuts, which is why I've been voting Republican lately, but I'll vote for anyone who will at least try to step up to the plate and I know better than to demonize one side or the other.  That solves nothing.


rayinca:  You are so right!

Apr 7, 2011 4:34PM
BeReasonable42:  <shrug>  Normally I'd know better than to state what's obvious to those who know it already and pointless to point out to those who don't care, but sometimes the mouth will out.  :)
Apr 7, 2011 2:05PM
Let the Republicans do their JOB. We voted them in because we are tired of Democrats SPENDING. America , we need to stand behind these cuts to survive
Apr 7, 2011 6:29PM

AG999 - Problem is this is what compromise looks like:

Dem. "I'll let you increase military and have tax cuts if you let me spend 2/3 of the Federal budget on entitlements and grow spending at 3 times inflation."

Rep. "Deal."

So the compromise is I won't make you pay if you won't stop me from spending.

Of course it works fine as long as you can borrow forever. But we can't.

Do you see why the TEA Party doesn't want to keep compromising like usual?

We are borrowing 4 out of every 10 dollars the Feds are spending. We haven't been in the black for 40 years.

You can't compromise anymore.

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