The government still hasn’t passed next year’s funding bill, leaving the possibility of a government shutdown if the funding bill isn’t passed by September 30, 2013. How would a government shutdown affect the average American, and just as importantly, what would it mean for our men and women in uniform?
These are great questions. A government shutdown would affect a large segment of our population, including federal government employees and military members. But what about military retirees, Social Security Recipients, and recipients of other government and military benefits such as TRICARE, VA benefits, and more? The answers to these questions vary, depending on several situations.
What Happens if the Government Shuts Down?
First, let’s start with a little background on the situation: The US government is required to pass a spending bill each year. Essentially, this is their budget – without it the government ceases many operations and as a result, many government agencies will stop work and many will stop paying employees. The current spending bill ends September 30th, and without passing a new spending bill, the government will essentially shut down.
Will Military Members Get Paid?
Update: The government has passed approved military pay during the government shutdown. However, most government civilians will not receive pay during the shutdown, and man government and military support facilities will be closed. Check with your base for a list of current closings.
The answer is yes, and no. Military members will receive their paycheck on October 1st, but there is the possibility that service members won’t get paid beyond October 1st if the government shutdown extends beyond that date. The Air Force Times recently quoted Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, as saying, “All military personnel will continue to serve and accrue pay, but will not actually be paid until appropriations are available.”
In this case, employees would be paid for their work up to the day the spending bill expired, or September 30th. Earnings through September 30th would be paid on October 1st, 2013. So the first possible missed paycheck would be the mid-month paycheck due on October 15th.
What does this mean for military members? The first thing to consider is that this hasn’t happened yet – the government has a tendency to burn the midnight oil when a showdown looms, often working until the early morning hours to either pass the funding bill, or pass a bill that gives them a deadline extension. At this point, a band-aid is better than nothing. Should they fail to reach a new agreement on the funding bill, it is possible that the government could shut down many services and stop making payments.
How much will you be paid, and when? If the government shuts down, you will receive your pay earned through the date at which the government shuts down. At this time the deadline is September 30th, which would make for a normal paycheck on the regularly scheduled October 1st payday. As stated above, military members would continue working and accruing pay after the cutoff date, so the next paycheck would be normal as long as the funding bill was passed in enough time for payments to be made.
Military members will receive back pay. If the government shuts down and military members don’t receive paychecks, they will receive back pay for missed paychecks.
Some government employees may not be required to report to work. If a funding bill is not passed, most government employees will be temporarily furloughed and will not be required to work until a spending bill is passed. However, there are exemptions, especially for those whose work is required for national security, including most military members. These groups of military members will be broken into exempt and non-exempt categories. So operations in war zones, humanitarian relief, and many people involved in fields such as medical, security, and transportation will continue to work.
What about other benefits? Benefits related to your pay, such as BAS and BAH will not be paid during a potential government shutdown, however, other benefits may still be around, such as health care. Military members may also be forced to cancel leave because technically the government is not allowed to permit government workers to take paid leave while there is no spending plan, due to the way paid leave works from an accounting standpoint. At this point, much is still in the air, and these concerns may not have all been determined at this time. The Pentagon is awaiting more information before releasing official guidance for military members and their families.
Military related payments not expected to stop. The government shut down will only affect paychecks for government spending which must be approved on an annual basis. Some military related payments are made from a separate pot of money and likely won’t be affected. The following payments are expected to continue without interruption:
What about Social Security Benefits, Veterans Health benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.? During the last shut down, the government continued sending Social Security Benefits to recipients. This should continue again. However, many non-emergency veteran health care services were curtailed during the shutdowns. Medicare, Medicaid and VA health care benefits would continue during a shutdown, but payments for the care may be later than normal. So be aware of this when planning any non-emergency or low-priority medical care.
UPDATE: Here are some tips for Dealing With a Missed Military Paycheck. These tips can show you how to get by on your own or how to contact your lender, landlord, or financial aid service to get help with this situation.