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How the Government Shutdown May Impact You

What the federal budget battles, spending cuts and possible default on the national debt could do to Social Security, Medicare and more

5. Will there be any disruption to Social Security?

During the 1995-96 government shutdown, the Social Security Administration stopped processing new applications for benefits, although as the shutdown dragged on, the agency eventually brought in more employees and renewed the process. It may be harder to get questions answered and problems dealt with.

6. What will happen to Medicare?

New applicants had to wait in 1995-96. There should be no immediate impact on enrollees' medical services, experts say, though reimbursements to doctors and hospitals could slow down if the contractors that process claims are deemed inessential. Still, doctors and hospitals aren't paid every day, so unless a shutdown continues for weeks, the effects will likely be minimal. A government shutdown will likely affect Social Security disability recipients who are applying for Medicare. By law, Social Security disability recipients must wait two years from the date of their receipt of disability benefits to qualify for Medicare. Delays in decisions caused by the shutdown could have a significant impact on these individuals.

7. How will veterans' benefits be affected?

Veterans Affairs services were curtailed in 1995-96. VA hospitals did not close; medical inpatient care and outpatient emergency care are considered critical services. But other services for veterans were cut back, and some benefit checks were reportedly delayed.

8. What will happen to Meals on Wheels programs?

A shutdown could have an effect on any federal program not deemed as "essential government services," as well as federal grantees like Meals on Wheels, which has already felt an impact from sequestration.

9. Will post offices close?

No, the U.S. Postal Service is self-funded and will continue to operate.

10. What government facilities will close?

The National Zoo, parks, museums and monuments nationwide are very likely to lock their doors, as they did in 1995-96.

11. Will Congress shut down?

No, Congress considers itself essential and will have to meet to reach a deal.

12. What happens if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling?

No one really knows, because Congress has always voted to raise the debt ceiling.

13. What could happen?

The government could be forced to default on some of its financial commitments, limiting, delaying or denying payments to creditors, beneficiaries, vendors and others.

Next page: A shutdown's impact on the economy. »

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