Here's Why Your Social Security Check Is Safe as a Government Shutdown Looms

Your check is safe, but here are some other services that may be affected.
Updated June 6, 2024
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Social Security and the government shutdown

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With talk of a potential government shutdown, millions of Americans worry if they will still receive their Social Security check if an agreement is not fully reached. Although congressional leaders agreed over the weekend on spending limits in 2024, it's a step in the right direction but not enough to prevent a shutdown.

To keep the government open through September 2024, lawmakers need to pass a series of funding bills or a continuing resolution to extend funding. The early deadlines this year for these funding bills are January 19th and February 2nd. Social Security recipients can rest easy, though, as this won't affect their monthly checks. However, the broader implications of budgetary decisions may cast a shadow over some of the services the Social Security Administration provides.

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Why your Social Security check is safe

Despite the drama of budget negotiations, experts, including Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, confirm the safety of Social Security checks.

Social Security is considered mandatory government spending, and because the money comes from a trust specifically designated for Social Security payouts, is immune to the varying budget discussions every year.

Amidst the fiscal discussions, the primary concern for beneficiaries revolves around the timely receipt of financial support that helps save money on everyday essentials.

How a shutdown affects your Social Security

In the event of a government shutdown, your Social Security check is safe, but it will impact other operations that support Social Security offices. For example, a shutdown won't impact applying for benefits or issuing Social Security cards, but other services like benefit verifications and replacement Medicare cards, would temporarily stop.

While the offices that sustain Social Security will remain open, a shutdown might affect other offices that offer extended support. This may result in delayed responses but not a cutoff in payment checks.

What to expect with the government shutdown

Andrew Lautz, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the true impact on Americans unfolds gradually as essential programs and services face disruptions.

As agencies begin shutting down, you may feel the effects on a “rolling basis” as services start to become unavailable. Medicare and Social Security often go hand in hand, and while Medicare benefits are also considered mandatory spending and are safe, other services may be interrupted.

This means initial Medicare enrollment could be disrupted. During the 1995-1996 federal shutdown, more than 10,000 Medicare applicants were temporarily turned away every day of the shutdown.

So, while Social Security benefit checks and new applicants are safe, lowering financial stress, a shutdown affects the overarching support system that extends beyond just Social Security.

That said, the government has never shut down long enough for a real effect on Social Security and Medicare benefit payments and services. If they truly happen, shutdowns usually do not last more than a couple weeks, with the longest government shutdown on record 35 days.

Bottom line

As Congress navigates the fiscal landscape, the fate of Social Security benefits remains safe, and recipients need not worry. Budget negotiations will not interrupt your monthly benefit check. However, it might be wise for seniors and any Social Security or Medicare recipients to try to get any administrative work out of the way before any supporting offices are affected. 

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.