UPDATED: How a Government Shutdown Impacts Pay, Benefits

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army/C. Todd Lopez)
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army/C. Todd Lopez)

This story was last updated Jan. 20.

The nation slipped into a government shutdown this morning as Congress hit a stalemate over operations funding for 2018.

How does a shutdown impact military and retiree pay and benefits or payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs?

The Defense Department issued some specific guidance as the shutdown loomed late Jan. 19. Here's what we know:


Troop Pay

Although active duty troops and Guard and Reservists on active duty orders are expected to show-up for work during a shutdown, they will not get paid unless Congress passes a separate piece of legislation to do so. Such a bill was awaiting action from the House and Senate Saturday.

Without that legislation, known as the Pay Our Military Act, troops will receive partial paychecks Feb. 1 only for days worked prior to Jan. 20.

Guard and Reserve drill days scheduled for during the shutdown will likely be canceled, while those at drill when the shutdown started are likely being sent home. Guardsmen and Reservists should check with their units for more information.  

Retiree Pay and SBP Payments

Military retirees would still receive their regular pension checks in the event of a shutdown, as would those receiving a Survivor's Benefit Plan (SBP) payment.

That's because those funds are paid from a different account that is not impacted by the annual funding bill Congress has yet to pass.


Troops Killed in Action

Newly bereaved family members would not receive the Pentagon's $100,000 death gratuity during a shutdown or military-funded travel to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, or elsewhere for the dignified transfer or military funeral or memorial.

Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payments, however, would not be affected.

VA Disability Pay & GI BIll Benefits

Like retiree pay, VA disability pay and GI Bill payments are both funded through different legislation than is at risk on the Hill. For that reason, those checks are unlikely to be affected by a brief shutdown.

However, during the last shutdown in 2013, VA officials warned that if the closure extended beyond several weeks, disability checks were unlikely to go out to more than 5.1 million veterans.


Military Moves and Travel

Military families about to make a permanent change of station (PCS) move or troops preparing for temporary travel (TDY) have their travel on hold until after the shutdown, according to guidance issued by the Defense Department late Jan. 19.

Those who have already departed on military move orders can complete their move, according to the guidance. Those in the midst of TDY travel should return to their duty station, the guidance states.

Medical Care on Base

While military hospitals and on base dental clinics will stay open for emergencies, inpatient care and acute care, all other types of care -- including elective procedures and primary-care appointments -- will be canceled until the shutdown is lifted.

Contact your clinic or hospital to find out more about your scheduled care.


Medical Care off Base

The shut down does not impact off base medical care provided through Tricare, the guidance states.


On-Base Child Care

On-base military child care centers will stay open on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether they are seen as "essential." Users should contact their specific Child Development Center (CDC) for details.


On-Base Schools

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools will stay open during a shutdown. However, all extracurricular activities, such as sporting events, will be canceled, the guidance says.

On-base schools that are operated by local school districts are not be affected by a shutdown.


Commissaries, Exchanges and MWR

Military exchanges will remain open during a shutdown thanks to the way they are funded.

Stateside commissaries, however, will close by Tuesday night, officials said, while those outside the U.S. and in some rural locations will remain open since they are considered "essential." Those include two stores in Guam, a store in Puerto Rico, and commissaries at 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.

MWR activities will temporarily shutter on a case-by-case basis due to how those services are funded.


-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.


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