Today marks the 22nd day of the government shutdown. This government shutdown is now the longest in modern U.S. history, exceeding the shutdown in 1995-1996. As many know, there are about 800,000 federal government employees effected by the shutdown. The departments whose agencies have been impacted include the departments of Transportation, State, Treasury, Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development. That leaves the departments of Defense, Labor, Education, Veterans Affairs, Energy and Health and Human Services. Social Security is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. So, Social Security remans untouched by the shutdown. Or is it?
Benefit checks will continue to be paid for not only the disabled but also retirees. The local Social Security offices will continue to remain open during the partial shutdown, generally functioning as they always have functioned. People will be allowed to file claims for Social Security disability during the partial shutdown. The agency will send the cases out for evaluation. Disability hearings will continue to be scheduled, heard and decided. Claimants will be allowed to file and have appeals at the Appeals Council level heard and decided.
If a claimant is unsuccessful in obtaining disability benefits during the administrative process, the claimant has the right to begin a civil action in Feral District court. It is the court litigation process that, while not affected, may soon be impacted by the partial government shutdown. While Social Security is not directly affected by the partial government shutdown, the Department of Justice is one of the nine agencies directly influenced by the partial government shutdown. That means that cases which are filed in the Federal District court against the Commissioner of Social Security could be impacted by the partial government shutdown. Thankfully, that has not yet been the case. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has the following message on its website: “The partial federal government shutdown is currently not impacting core court operations. Hearings and trials are proceeding as scheduled, and all case deadlines are in place unless modified by court order. Jurors summoned for jury duty are to appear as instructed.” The operative words in this message are “currently not impacting.” Should the partial government shutdown continue much longer, the “core operations” of the court could be affected by the shutdown.
I will continue to watch as the developments in the District Court unfold and alert you to any changes.