House Republicans want to keep the government open and provide fairness for all Americans under the law. While we don’t know when negotiations will aid in reopening the government, here are some questions that might help guide you during the slowdown.
House Republicans will pass H.J.Res.72 – the Honoring our Promise to America’s Veterans Act –today to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs through December 15th last night.
How would a shut down affect veterans’ pensions?
According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, disabled veterans in receipt of disability compensation or pension checks should continue to receive those payments. Veterans with new or pending claims may be impacted with a delay in their claims until funding for claims processors is appropriated.
How would a shut down affect survivor benefits?
According to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, survivor benefits are similar to disability/pension benefits paid to veterans. Thus, survivors currently in receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Survivors’ Pension will continue to receive those payments. New claims may be delayed.
What would happen to VA hospitals and clinics? Would they still operate and could veterans receive treatment, including pharmacological? If there was an emergency and the VA Offices were closed would the VA pay the bill if a Veteran went to a civilian hospital for treatment?
According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, medical care is already fully funded.
Would members of the military be paid?
Active Duty Military, Civilian workers supporting Active Duty Military, and Contractors supporting Active Duty Military were funded last night by H.R. 3210.
Would Social Security checks still go out? If the checks are stopped, would all monies due be paid eventually?
Because Social Security benefits are not subject to appropriation, the Social Security Administration has told the House Committee on Ways and Means checks will go out.
Would Medicare payments be made, to doctors, hospitals, including emergency hospitalization and ER visits?
The House Committee on Ways and Means asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) if they have any information as to what would happen if there were a government shutdown and CMS would not give any guidance. According to Ways and Means, CMS had not thought about it. According to Ways and Means, the House Committee on Financial Services also made a similar request to CMS. CMS did note that Medicare doesn’t pay in real time. There’s a minimum two–week lag time, so if the government is shut down for more than two weeks there could be delays. CMS could also hold claims like they did with doctors in a previous situation. According to the Congressional Research Service, non?essential services could see an impact. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will be issuing guidance on what they deem to be essential in the coming days.
Would Medicaid/SCHIP payments be made?
According to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Medicaid allotments are paid to states in advance on a quarterly basis. It is likely states will not see an immediate impact from a temporary government shutdown and consequently, nor will providers who serve the Medicaid and SCHIP populations.
What would happen with disability benefits (SSDI)?
According to the Committee on Ways and Means, disability benefits would continue to be paid. New benefit applications for retirement, disability, and survivors benefits may be delayed depending on the staffing plan Social Security develops, as the number of staff on hand would determine the amount of work processed. The plan is still with OMB for their review.
Would the mail be delivered? Would post offices be open?
According to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the U.S. Postal Service would continue mail delivery, retail service, and other operations in the event of a government shutdown. The Postal Service is essentially funded through the sale of postage.
How would a potential shutdown affect Indian Affairs? How would this affect services on Reservations?
According to staff at the House Committee on Natural Resources, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) manages or supervises many of the day–to–day affairs of Indian Reservations, particularly the large land–based tribes west of the Mississippi. They are under the assumption that if money were cut off to the BIA they expect “critical” services relating to law enforcement (i.e., BIA police), Indian Health Services relating to life and limb, resource protection will continue. But other operations, like reviewing and approving a lease of Indian or tribal land to building a house, sending checks, providing day care, running dam and irrigation projects, drilling oil and gas, and running Indian school operations would shut down.
Non–essential personnel, such as a receptionist in a health clinic, might be furloughed. They are under the impression that essential personnel (i.e. doctors, etc) must work. Also, under a certain law, many tribes throughout the U.S. effectively bypass the BIA and receive appropriated money directly – they then provide services through tribal structures rather than through the BIA. Unless the tribes have amassed some reserves, their funding would cease. While well over a hundred tribes operate casinos, not all provide large profits. Most of them receive federal dollars.
Would National Parks and Museums (Smithsonian) be shut down?
House Republicans will pass H.J.Res.70 – the Open Our National Parks Act – to fully fund our national parks today.
According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, parks would be closed to public use. “Critical” personnel would be kept in place for resource protection (and to tell people arriving, they are closed). The National Park Service has informed the Natural Resources Committee that they do not expect to close access to open–entrance park land, such as the National Mall and the GW Parkway. According to CRS Report RL34680, while not indicative of future behavior, 368 National Park Service sites estimated a loss of 7 million visitors in a previous shutdown.
Law Enforcement and Federal Assistance
Would FBI agents come off the streets?
Using past shutdown experience as a guide, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform anticipates that FBI agent personnel would be exempt from furlough and thus continue to perform their assigned duties. In accordance with OMB Circular No. A?11, the FBI prepares an annual plan which guides agency activities in the absence of appropriations. This includes a breakdown of employees that would be retained in absence of appropriations because they are “engaged in military, law enforcement, or director provision of health care activities.”
Would CIA officers get paid?
Using past shutdown experience as a guide, the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform anticipates that CIA officers would be considered excepted employees and required to work during a shutdown. Consistent with OPM guidance, CIA officers who qualify as excepted employees would continue to earn pay, but would not receive pay until the enactment of appropriated funds.
Do computer operated government systems shut down? Would local law enforcement still have access to Federal databases? Would the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) still be available so that firearm purchases would not be interrupted?
It is the understanding of the House Committee on Homeland Security that state and local law enforcement would continue to have access to federal law enforcement databases for homeland security oriented issues and access to the government systems that support them.
Would FEMA and disaster assistance be affected?
CRS informed the House Committee on Homeland Security that disaster assistance would likely not be affected because the Disaster Relief Fund is categorized as “no year money.” DHS has not yet provided the Committee specific information on these issues. According to CRS Report RL34680, though not indicative of future shutdown activities, emergency and disaster assistance was an excepted activity in FY 1996.
Would the passport offices still be open to receive applications/process passports since they are a fee for service operation?
According to the House Foreign Affairs committee, the State Department has not yet issued any final guidance, and these issues are still under internal discussion. The Department did say that during the mid–1990s shutdown, processing was cut back to just emergency passport and visa issuance. Normal passport and visa processing was put on hold.
According to the committee, Consular Affairs says that while those activities are largely fee–for–service funded, not all of the links in the issuing chain are fee–funded. Also, according to CRS Report RL34680, though not necessarily indicative of future shutdown effects, in the past approximately 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas reportedly went unprocessed each day. Another 200,000 U.S. applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed and U.S. tourist industries and airlines reportedly sustained millions of dollars in losses.
How would this affect our customs and border patrol? Airport screeners? Air Traffic Controllers? What would happen to U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.?Mexican border?
It is the understanding of the House Committee on Homeland Security that CBP agents and TSA screeners would likely be deemed essential personnel and that they would continue to be operational. DHS has not yet provided the Committee specific information on these issues.
According to a CRS Report RL34680, though not indicative of future shutdown activities, border and coastal protection and surveillance and the continuance of air traffic control and other transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property was an excepted activity in FY 1996. In FY 1996 cancellation of the hiring of 400 Border Patrol agents occurred during the shutdown according to the report.
How would TSA be affected?
It is the understanding of the House Committee on Homeland Security that Customs and Border Protection agents and TSA screeners would likely be deemed essential personnel and that they would continue to be operational. DHS has not yet provided the Committee on Homeland Security specific information on these issues.
Would there be disruptions in the aviation system? Would air traffic controllers be affected?
According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Air Traffic Controllers would continue operating as normal. Almost all ATCs are considered essential.
Would tax returns get processed and refund checks get issued?
According to the House Committee on Ways and Means, with regard to tax filings and refunds, this would be the first time the IRS would be faced with a government shutdown during tax season. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified at a Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing last week and said he was working with OMB to prepare for such an event. He expressed he would not elaborate beyond that.
According to IRS Legislative Affairs, there would be some minimal level of staff present, and they would expect there would be some staff handling filings and refunds. If the IRS does not provide a refund within 45 days, the government would be required to pay interest. OMB has instructed the IRS not to disclose any further information about the plans for a government shutdown.
Would foreign embassies and Consulates be shut down?
According to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, State Department internal guidance has been finalized, but not yet promulgated (which would require a decision at the most senior level). While they cannot talk specific details, it would almost certainly parallel their practice during the FY1996 shutdown, which paired down Embassy/Consulate staffs to essential personnel. While they still would provide some level of American Citizen Services overseas, they would curtail visa processing.
U.S. State Department: https://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
Social Security: https://ssa.gov/pressoffice/shutdown2013.pdf
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: https://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp
Timeline of Shutdown:Back to News