How would a government shutdown affect my Social Security disability benefits/claim?
The answer is, unfortunately, it depends.
If you are currently receiving SSA disability, survivors or retirement payment, the shutdown will not affect you.
If you are looking to file a new claim for disability, you will still be able to apply for benefits but there may be an increased delay in you receiving a decision.
If you currently have a disability claim pending with Social Security and are not yet receiving benefits then you may be impacted by a government shutdown. If you have a claim pending at the Initial Application or Request for Reconsideration level, it is being evaluated by Disability Determination Services (DDS) – which is a state, rather than a federal agency. As a result, Social Security cannot guarantee or predict whether these DDS agencies will continue to operate in the event of a shutdown. Each state will determine whether it can maintain DDS operations.
If you have a disability claim pending at the Request for Hearing level then whether a shutdown will impact you will depend on whether you already have a scheduled hearing date. Offices of Disability and Adjudicative Review (ODAR) will continue to hear and decide cases, but will stop scheduling hearings. This means the waiting time for a hearing will be lengthened.
Below is a list of the various offices and agencies involved in processing Social Security disability claims and their continued and discontinued activities in the event of a shutdown as proposed in the Social Security Administration’s 2013 Contingency Plan, which can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/shutdown2013.pdf.
This posting is not intended as legal advice, as this is an ongoing and constantly changing situation. For more specific answers regarding your situation, please contact an attorney and/or the relevant government agency.
Will continue to provide: Application for benefits; Request for appeals (reconsiderations, hearings, Appeals Council); Normal post-entitlement actions (change of address, Supplemental Security Income living arrangement changes, non-citizen verification/changes, direct deposit, death inputs, etc.); Non-receipts and critical payments; Payee changes.
Will not provide: Original and replacement Social Security cards; Benefit verifications; Earnings record corrections and updates; Payee accountings; Completing program integrity workloads (redeterminations, continuing disability reviews (CDRs), overpayments); Prisoner activities; Requests from third parties for queries; Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests; IT enhancement activities, public relations, and training; Replacement Medicare cards.
State Disability Determination Services (DDS)
Will continue to provide: Processing Initial claims, including terminally ill, compassionate allowances, quick disability determinations, dire need, and wounded warriors; Process Reconsideration appeals; Perform critical IT support for daily processing.
Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR)
Will continue to provide: Hearing of cases already scheduled; Deciding cases.
Will not provide: Screening cases for On-the-Record decisions; Scheduling hearings; Hearings appeals; Docketing and tracking new cases; Drafting relevant notices for claimants; Preparing electronic records for claimants and representatives; Identifying missing evidence and developing the record; Exhibiting case files for Administrative Law Judges; Quality assurance review activities; Decision-writing; Processing bias complaints from claimants and representatives; Responding to congressional inquiries regarding support for casework on constituent hearings and appeals; Conducting all activities dependent on Operations support, including enrollment of appointed representatives for eFolder access; Responding to FOIA requests and public inquiries.