Don’t Worry, Retirees: A Government Shutdown Won’t Kill These Essentials

by Marc Bastow | September 30, 2013 11:57 am

For any retirees out there fretting about how the political stalemate in Congress will affect you, don’t worry — get back to your coffee and breathe easy.

The reality is a government shutdown probably won’t have a huge impact on your day-to-day, at least not in the near-term. Here’s a look at important programs that should run relatively unchecked:

Social Security

Social Security is deemed a “mandatory” program, and is therefore not subject to annual appropriations. Remember, Social Security is a self-funded program, with money paid out through Social Security trust funds. The last time the federal government shut down in the wake of a budget fight — 1995 — Social Security payments still went out.

The bottom line to you is that money is available to make payments, so Social Security checks will go out to those already on the eligibility rolls.

There is one caveat for existing beneficiaries: If furloughs knock back the number of workers processing those checks — and Social Security has posted its plans for potential furloughs[1] — it’s possible they might go out late.

As for new applicants: If you are just putting together your information to start receiving benefits, it might take a little more time to process.


Those on Medicare and Medicaid also need not worry. Both are entitlement programs, and thus not subject to annual appropriations. Payments in the system will be processed, as just like Social Security, money is available. But again, patience might be required if staffing levels are cut.


While the United States Postal Service is indeed suffering fiscal issues[2], it too is a self-funded operation and thus will continue to deliver those checks.

Also, if you are planning a trip that entails air travel, take heart: air traffic controllers are deemed “essential” personnel, so weather permitting, your trip is still a go.

Bottom Line

Thankfully for retirees, a government shutdown won’t really affect many of the most essential of services.

And since Congress is also deemed essential, it’ll have to go back to work and figure this out.

Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at

  1. posted its plans for potential furloughs:
  2. indeed suffering fiscal issues:

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