How Does a Government Shutdown Affect Military Benefits?

While most government shutdowns have been avoided, a few have not. This leaves the question of whether a government shutdown can affect military benefits. We break it all down below!

A Brief Look at How Shutdowns are Handled

While government shutdowns are fairly infrequent, when they do occur, our veterans and service members are some of the first people to be affected. When a shutdown does happen, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs quickly issue guidance for those affected by the shutdown itself. While the circumstances of shutdowns are not always the same, the guidance issued by these departments usually is.

What Has Been Affected & How

For those outside of the military, it may be surprising to see just how much is affected for service members when the government shuts down. We take a look a look at the details of what has happened in the past below.

  • Disability Pay & GI Bill Benefits
    When the government shut down in 2013, the VA issued a statement that should the closure last more than a couple of weeks, it could be possible that disability payments wouldn’t be sent to over five million veterans. During the 2019 shutdown, disability and GI Bill checks were never affected, thanks to the fact that both were being funded through separate legislations that were being debated at the time.
  • Active Duty Pay
    When the government does shut down, active-duty troops, as well as reservists and guard members are still required to do their jobs. However, they may not be paid for that work unless a separate piece of legislation gets passed by Congress that makes allowances for it. During past shutdowns, drills that had been scheduled for reservists and guard members were canceled or rescheduled.
  • Retirement & Survivor Benefit Plan Payments
    During the government shutdown in 2019, military retirees were still sent their regular pension checks. Anyone receiving Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments was also unaffected.
  • PCS Moves & Travel
    During past shutdowns, any servicemembers preparing for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move had that move delayed until after the shutdown ended. Any other travel plans were also delayed. If servicemembers had already started the relocation process, they were allowed to complete their moves. For those who had travel plans delayed, they were required to report back to their bases.
  • Bereaved Family Members of Troops Recently Killed in Action
    When the government shut down in 2019, any newly bereaved families of troops who were killed in action were set to not receive death gratuity payments from the Pentagon, nor were they to receive military-sponsored travel. All Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance payments were unaffected, however.
  • On-Base Medical Care Services
    During past shutdowns, on-base military hospitals and clinics were allowed to remain open for emergencies, but inpatient care, elective procedures and appointments were all canceled until the shutdowns ended.
  • Exchanges & Commissaries
    During the 2019 government shutdown, all military exchanges were allowed to stay open and operate as they normally would. However, military commissaries within the United States had to close until the shutdown ended.