How a Government Shutdown Would Affect Federal Retirement Benefits

Dec 9, 2015

government shutdown

As the possibility of a government shutdown looms, federal employees find themselves navigating uncertain times once again. The potential consequences of a shutdown can be overwhelming and stressful. In this article, we will provide important guidance on what federal employees should do if a shutdown becomes a reality. 

How Would a Government Shutdown Affect Federal Workers?

In 2013, the 16 day government shutdown resulted in over 800,000 federal employees being out of work without pay. The 2018-2019 shutdown lasted even longer at 35 days. Based on this precedent, we can expect that if congress were to miss the legislative deadline this year, our federal workers can expect to experience furloughs, delayed payments, disrupted services, and impacted benefits. Keep in mind that the government will provide backpay if you are out of work without pay.

But what about federal retirees? How would a government shutdown affect federal retirement benefits? Luckily, government retirees can take a sigh of relief: their annuity payments come from permanent trust funds, and the government would make sure those payments stay on schedule.

If you are looking to retire before, during, or after the government shutdown, the OPM still processes new applications for benefits, including disability retirement. Processing would continue, although the proceeding may take longer than usual. Assessing applications for benefits often involves communication between the OPM and other employing agencies. If the offices at those agencies are closed, then there may be subsequent delays. It could take many months before the full benefit is calculated.

Applying for federal disability retirement benefits is a stressful, tedious endeavor even in normal conditions. Our team at Harris Federal strives to make the process as easy as possible for our clients. If you think you may qualify for federal disability retirement, and would like to speak with one of our experienced disability consultants, contact us for a free consultation.

In regards to federal retiree benefits, premiums in the government healthcare plan and other insurance programs would continue to provide coverage. The Thrift Savings Plan would also be largely unaffected. Investment activity would continue, account balances would be updated, and loans and withdrawals would continue to be distributed. 

Taking Action to Prepare for a Government Shutdown

While the thought of a government shutdown may be scary, there are steps that you can take to prepare for a shutdown and ease some mental stress.

  • Stay Informed: Keep a close eye on the latest news and official communications from your agency to stay informed about developments regarding the potential government shutdown. 
  • Review Finances: Assess your financial situation and create a budget to manage your expenses during a possible period without income. Consider exploring options such as emergency savings, loans, or temporary employment. 
  • Utilize Available Resources: Familiarize yourself with government resources designed to assist federal employees during a government shutdown, such as unemployment benefits and employee assistance programs. These resources can provide essential support and guidance. 
  • Seek Support Networks: Connect with fellow federal employees, unions, and professional networks to share information, resources, and emotional support. Together, you can navigate through the challenges posed by a government shutdown. 

While we aren’t certain if a government shutdown will occur this year or not, keep this information in mind as future shutdowns are possible. We wish you the best of luck and thank you all for your federal service!

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