How does a government shutdown affects military families? It’s a question on many minds this week, as our government draws nearer to the deadline to fund federal operations. While we all hope that a shutdown can be averted, we need to prepare for the possibility that a shutdown may happen.
So how will this affect you?
Let me preface all of this by saying that there is a lot of “we think” and “it depends” in the official guidance so far. And every shutdown is a little different, based on the cause of the shutdown, what relevant legislation has or has not been passed, and what installation you’re near. There are almost always different situations at overseas bases and some remote or critical US locations.
Please ask questions! I will find answers, and also update this post as more information becomes available!
The impact of a government shutdown on military pay is making big news. And it is big news, but it’s not our most pressing issue. That’s because of the timing of this particular shutdown situation.
The November mid-month military payday is Wednesday, 15 Nobember 2023. The next payday isn’t until Friday, 1 December 2023. That gives Congress some times to pass a budget and make it possible for the military to be paid on time. Maybe.
It is also possible that Congress could enact separate legislation to avoid a military pay delay. This has happened in previous shutdowns but has not yet happened for this potential shutdown.
Now, pay deposits don’t happen overnight. So if a shutdown goes into the week of 27 November , then pay could be delayed even if the shutdown is resolved by 1 December 2023.
Women, Infants, and Children Benefits
My biggest immediate concern about this shutdown is the potential rapid end to food benefits under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Thousands of military families rely on this federal program to keep food on their tables. While states aren’t yet announcing how fast the impact would be felt, during the last threatened shutdown, officials were saying that most states would be out of money almost immediately.
Child Development Centers
In past shutdowns, the decision to close on-base Child Development Centers has been made base-by-base. There has been some rumbling that all CDCs would remain open if there is a shutdown, but that can not be confirmed. There has been no announcement about childcare subsidies or family childcare providers.
It’s important to note that youth programs are often funded and managed differently than CDCs, and it appears that youth programs would likely close.
DoDEA schools will remain open during a government shutdown. Extra-curricular activities, including sports, may be cancelled depending on the way they are funded.
Official word on commissaries is inconsistent. Some sources say that all domestic commissaries will close immediately, and other report that the Defense Commissary Agency has enough money to continue operations for up to two months. After that, commissaries would close except for overseas and certain remote locations within the US.
Military exchanges, including AAFES, NEX, MCX, and CGX, would remain open as they are generally self-funding operations.
Tricare benefits are unaffected by a government shutdown. The two Tricare contractors should remain open to provide support to Tricare beneficiaries.
Military Treatment Facilities
MTFs would remain open for essential operations – though what that means may vary. Non-urgent care at MTFs would be postponed until after the shutdown.
Most PCS moves would be suspended during a government shutdown. Exceptions may exist for moves to critical locations or families being reassigned for urgent medical needs.
Because of the way military leave is funded, leave may be cancelled for military members during a government shutdown.
Training and Travel
Most training and travel would be cancelled or postponed. Exceptions are made for certain situations.
National Guard and Reserves
It is projected that many National Guard and Reserve operations would be suspended during a shutdown. More importantly, these reserve component members wouldn’t be paid for work they didn’t do.
Troops on active status (AGR) will continue to work, just like their active duty counterparts. They would receive retroactive pay when the government is funded.
Veterans Affairs Services
The key functions of the Department of Veterans Affairs will remain operational. This includes healthcare and the payment of disability compensation and educational benefits.
However, support services such as educational counseling and career services would be suspended. The GI Bill telephone hotline is expected to be closed.
This link provides a great visual of what will remain functional and what will close.
Military Retirement Pay
Military retirement pay is not paid via the budget process and would be unaffected by a shutdown.
Survivor Benefit Plan Annuitants
Survivor Benefit Plan payments are not paid via the budget process and would be unaffected by a shutdown.
We all hope that a government shutdown doesn’t happen. But it may, and it CAN affect many aspects of life for military families. Be prepared.