A list showing how a shutdown will impact veteran, military and retiree pay and benefits or payments. What to expect regarding the operating status of the many programs if the government is shut down.
Find out more about VA resources for furloughed veterans and their families.
Update (February 15 2019)
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, Congress approved a $333 billion budget that included only a fraction of the funding requested by the Executive branch for construction of a wall along the southern United States border. Border wall funding was the main point of contention which led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Many were concerned that the passage of this massive spending bill-passed without the some $8 billion in funds requested for what is called “border security” on one side of the argument and “folly” on another would lead to yet another partial government shutdown.
Both sides of the argument seemed unwilling to let the disagreement lead to another partial closure of the government; the funding bill went to the President’s desk and was signed in spite of the lack of the full amount of requested funds for the border project. After the budget was passed, the White House announced the declaration of a national emergency to fund the border wall.
The idea behind the national emergency declaration is centered around the idea of diverting other federal funds from their intended purpose including money slated for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, military housing and other military construction projects, drug interdiction programs, funds from the Treasury Department according to several sources.
But the border wall controversy is now a separate issue from the government’s funding issues; the budget has been passed and signed into law; the President signed the $333 billion budget bill and by doing so keeps the government open through Sept. 30 2019.
A future government shutdown past that date seems unlikely in the context of the current disagreements over border security; different issues could obviously lead to a new stalemate in September, but in any case the border wall portion of the equation has been addressed.
Future decisions about its’ funding could have effects on military improvement projects and force improvement, but those issues will be dealt with between the White House and the Department of Defense.
Government Agencies Affected By The Prolonged Government Shutdown
More than 400 thousand federal employees continue to work without getting their scheduled paychecks, including more than 40 thousand federal law enforcement officers working for:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, And Firearms
- Department of Homeland Security
- S. Customs And Border Protection
- Transportation Security Administration
Nine Federal Agencies That Are Closed During The Shutdown
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Agriculture
- Homeland Security Department
- Department of the Interior
- Department of State
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Justice
How Much Does The Government Shutdown Cost?
During the Obama administration, there was a government shutdown in 2013 lasting 16 days. The resulting furloughs and lost productivity was estimated to cost taxpayers $2 billion. The current shutdown has lasted longer at the time of this writing than the 2013 version.
Is the Department of Veterans Affairs Affected By The Government Shutdown?
The VA Contingency Plan for the shutdown states that nearly all of it’s employees-approximately 96 percent-are ordered to report to work as usual. According to the VA Contingency Plan, “Federal activities that are authorized to continue, during a funding lapse, are excepted activities” which include the safety and protection of human life, and the protection of property. VA medical facilities remain open and appointments are still being kept at VA hospitals and clinics.
Banks Offer Help To Account Holders Affected By The Shutdown
There have been recent headlines about a variety of financial institutions offering help to those who are hurt financially by the government shutdown, but one common thread can be found among all the corporations offering such help; it is not automatic and much depends on the prior relationship the customer has had with the lender.
That means that those in good standing with their lenders will likely find much-needed help during the days and weeks without a federal paycheck. But all accounts in this situation are reviewed on a case-by-case basis is public statements by companies like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are any indication.
Those who need financial assistance must reach out to their banks to make arrangements for the programs or special help that may be available at this time-no account holder should assume there will be personal loans, loan forbearance, or foreclosure avoidance help until they have made proper arrangements with the creditor(s).
How The Shutdown Made It Into 2019
The House and Senate adjourned Thursday, December 27, 2018 and made plans to reconvene the following Monday, delaying action to end the partial government shutdown as negotiators remained far from an agreement. Nothing prevented the shutdown from extending into 2019.
The key sticking point in the budget impasse: a Presidential request that $5 billion in American taxpayer dollars be allocated in the new federal budget to pay for Trump’s proposed border wall. This is a change from the original promise to obtain funding from Mexico to build the wall, and common criticism of the border wall spending plan often invokes concerns such as economic or environmental viability, how to prevent illegal immigration by boat or tunnel, etc.
The funding issue has become a political flashpoint; the resulting stalemate around a government shutdown has very real implications for men and women in uniform and their families.
There have been many notable situations that led to a government shutdown; in each of the notable cases, non-essential federal employees were furloughed until the crisis had passed. Some federal agencies had been permitted to continue operations under a complete or partial shutdown due to to intricacies of funding.
But in the 1980s the Attorney General issued two opinions that restricted government agencies from doing so without appropriations or similar measures to fund the agencies in question; today the only operations permitted in the absence of an appropriation are those deemed to be essential to the protection of life or property.
This article is essentially a list of how a partial or total government shutdown can affect veteran, military and retiree pay and benefits or payments. Learn what to expect regarding the operating status of the many programs if the government is shut down.
How The Budget Impasse is Impacting the Military Community
2019 Military Pay
The 2.6% military pay increase is still guaranteed except for the 4 star ranks and above. Top paygrades in the military cannot exceed the highest federal government civilian pay rate and due to the budget impasse these rates have not been set. Thus, Defense Finance and Accounting Agency (DFAS) is delaying the release of the 2019 military pay charts.
No New Programs or Spending Streams
In situations where the Defense Department is required to operate without a budget (the DoD may be required to operate under a continuing resolution) there may be no new programs or new spending. “This means training continues reasonably unabated as long as there is money, but you can’t refresh any of the equipment that is used up in training, and you can’t buy new” said Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva.
Such circumstances may affect the implementation of new programs or revisions to older ones. If a rollout of a new GI Bill feature happens to clash with a budget impasse, such new benefits could be delayed. How existing programs or employment can be affected may depend on the individual program or agency and whether or not the money supporting it is via non-appropriated funds.
Continuing Resolutions Impact Readiness, Planning
A continuing resolution makes long-term planning nearly impossible and any program that was supposed to start in the affected fiscal year is not authorized to start. The fiscal year budget supposed to be in place at the start of said year would, in its’ absence would likely result in one or more continuing resolutions and bring serious potential for a government shutdown. In such circumstances, when a budget is passed all the acquisition programs could be crammed into the remainder of the fiscal year.
Problem for Service Members and Industry
Service members don’t get the equipment or capabilities they need during a budget fight. Over 10,000 guardsmen and reservists scheduled to drill during one fiscal year’s brief shutdown were sent home. Their lost drill time is unrecoverable.
How a Government Shutdown Will Impact the Military Community
Salaries for 1.3 million services members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are not affected by the latest government shutdown because the Department of Defense had its full fiscal year funding approved last fall.
Although not affected during this shutdown many financial institutions that support current and former servicemembers will offer advanced pay or assistance.
Military friendly banks will often offer a no-interest, 0% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) payroll advance to military personnel with existing direct deposit at USAA. Banks will provide a onetime payroll advance loan to cover pay or benefits to the following groups, as long as those payments are direct deposited at the bank:
- Active duty
- Guard and Reserve
- Military retirees
Policies vary by bank so always check with your bank to see if they have any special contingencies or offers for government shutdown occurrences.
Retired & Survivor Benefit Plan Pay
Military Retirees and Survivor Benefit Plan recipients would, during a shutdown, still receive their pension checks as the funding for these benefits is NOT tied to Congress’s funding bill. After previous shutdowns, Veteran Affairs lobbied Congress to fund the VA on a two-year budget cycle which exempts the department.
“The VA is in a fortunate situation in that we have what’s called an advanced appropriations so we get our money a year ahead of time because I think Congress understands that the VA can’t shut down, that we are there for the safety of our veterans.” said former VA Secretary David Shulkin.
VA Disability Pay, GI Bill Benefits, SGLI Payments
Similar to retiree pay VA disability, GI Bill benefits and SGLI payments will continue. However support for claims and assistance may be limited.
My Career Advancement Accounts
Financial assistance requests will be continue to be approved. In addition, Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coaches will continue to be available to provide comprehensive education and career counseling services.
Thrift Savings Plan
The TSP will continue its normal daily operations during a federal government shutdown. Read the TSP fact sheet Effect of Nonpay Status on Your TSP Account to get answers to questions about the shutdown’s impact on TSP contributions, loans, and withdrawals.
Families for troops killed in action would not receive the $100,000 death benefit during the shutdown or military funded travel for funeral or memorial services.
In the earliest stages of the shutdown, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it would provide 42,000 active duty service members a one-time emergency payment on Dec. 31. The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose members are going without pay during the government shutdown aside from the one-time emergency payment.
On Tuesday, January 16, 2019, all members of the Coast Guard missed their first paycheck as a result of the partial government shutdown.
Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz released a written statement to Coast Guard members and their families about the missed paychecks.
“Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck.To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriation”.
The written statement included announcing a $15 million donation by USAA Bank to the Coast Guard’s relief organization, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), which is similar to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society or the Air Force Aid Society.
The American Red Cross has pledged its’ help and support for CGMA, stating it will assist in getting these funds distributed to military and civilians employees of the service who need it.
Approximately 42,000 active-duty military members of the Coast Guard are working without pay until the government shutdown is resolved. The Coast Guard is the only part of the military under the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense which continues to be funded during the shutdown.
Up to date information on Coast Guard Workforce Resources may be found at allhands.coastguard.dodlive.mil.
Military Reservist/National Guard
US military reservists and the National Guard drill training will continue as scheduled. Complications may arise from delays in air travel due to the shutdown but the drills are not cancelled.
“Civilian employees paid for lapsed appropriations and who are not necessary to carry out or support excepted activities will be furloughed, i.e., placed in a nonwork, nonpay status” according to the DoD. The Department of Defense employs approximately 750,000 civilian personnel. Employees being furloughed and not receiving back pay include military spouses, retirees and other veterans.
Existing personnel contracts signed and appropriated would continue, but new contracts would not be executed.
PCS & TDY
Permanent change-of-station moves and temporary duty travel is subject to cancellation except for activities determined to be essential to national security.
Military treatment facilities, pharmacies, laboratories and on-base healthcare will remain open and treatment will continue. However, routine appoints and elective surgery appointments will be cancelled and need to be rescheduled. Private sector Tricare will not be impacted by the shutdown nor would medical care for wounded servicemembers. The VA healthcare system including hundreds of hospitals and outpatient clinics will remain fully operational.
Care Packages, Armed Forces Network
During the last shutdown care packages were held back in some regions as well as Armed Forces Network Channels due to reduced staffing. These services and other comfort services may be reduced or cutoff again.
Commissaries, Exchanges, MWR
Military exchanges will be open worldwide.
Military exchanges will be open worldwide.
Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, non-appropriated fund activities and other operations necessary to support those activities not affected by a shutdown would continue. Examples of these excepted activities are operation of dining facilities, physical training and child care activities required to support readiness.
Stateside commissaries will follow an orderly shutdown to reduce the amount of perishables on hand and properly safeguard equipment and facilities. Overseas commissaries will remain open, including two stores in Guam and one in Puerto Rico. Commissaries in five remote stateside locations also remain open: Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport and Fort Irwin in California; Coast Guard Station Kodiak and Fort Greely in Alaska; and Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
DoD & On-base Schools
DODEA schools and district offices worldwide will remain open. Headquarters and regional offices will be affected by the shutdown. On-base schools will remain open as well.
On-base Child Care
Child Development Centers: Contact your local CDC or installation for details and guidance.
Family Centers & Programs
The Military and Family Life Counseling program will continue uninterrupted. The MFLCs will perform routine functions. If an MFLC is unable to access the installation during a shutdown, officials said, they will work offsite until they are able to access the installation.
Family Support Centers: Staffing will be determined by installation commanders.
Family Advocacy Program: Each service will determine staffing at each installation.
The Military OneSource website and call center will remain fully operational.
Other Benefits & Services
“Funding for the programs under Titles II, XVI, and XVIII of the Social Security Act will continue, even in the event of a lapse in appropriations,” according to SSA’s contingency plans announced in past budget impasse situations.
TSA, Air Traffic Control and Mail Services
These services and other services considered essential will continue although some employees of those agencies may still be furloughed.
National Parks & Museums
These facilities will be closed during a government shutdown.
Consular operations, including visa and passport services, domestically and abroad will remain open as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations. The embassies and consulates overseas will also continue to provide routine and emergency U.S. citizen services. If a domestic passport agency is located in a U.S. government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, the facility may become unsupported and therefore unavailable to the public. We refer you to GSA for questions about domestic facilities. Up to date information on passport operations may be found at Travel.State.Gov.
Gun permits from the ATF and other national permits will be unavailable.
Tips for Making it Through a Government Shutdown
- Apply for a no interest loan or payroll advance from your bank. Many banks, especially military affiliated banks offer this during a shutdown.
- Avoid taking out a payday loan which often includes a very high interest rate.
- Check with your creditors to see if they will freeze payments during a shutdown.
- Be frugal, purchase only “need” not “want” items.
- Utilize military discounts and coupons.