Well, here we are again. New year, same chance of a government shutdown. If the Republican controlled Congress can’t strike a deal with Democrats by Jan. 19 to provide the cash necessary to keep federal agencies open, there’ll be another shutdown.
This looming, yet all too familiar, possibility of a government shutdown has thrown the military back into our tense political climate with President Donald Trump taking to twitter early Friday morning to proclaim that Democrats should “take care of our military, and our Country, First!”
Chances are the GOP and Democrats will come together to strike a not-so-grand bargain that’ll probably fund the government with another stop-gap “fix” known as a “continuing resolution”—a temporary funding measure.
However, what if there is a government shutdown? Will our troops not be paid, as Mr. Trump claims? Here’s what active duty personnel and veterans can expect in the case of a shutdown.
Military pay can most certainly be impacted during a government shutdown.
According to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website, “In case of a potential government shutdown, the Department of Defense has no legal authority to pay any personnel – military or civilian – for the days during which the government is shut down.”
The last time the federal government shutdown, Congress passed a bill guaranteeing military pay. But, that bill only applied to that fiscal year, and doesn’t apply to future shutdown like the one currently looming.
In the event the government is again shutdown (again) Congress would need to pass another bill to ensure service members get paid.
The real unfortunate part is the old saying “an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work” really doesn’t apply here. Service members are still expected to show up for work regardless of whether they’ll get paid.
During the 2013 shutdown, commissaries were not open. However, commissaries located in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii) stayed open for one day to sell their perishable goods like dairy and meat.
Commissaries located overseas remained open.
DoD schools were deemed essential and remained open in previous shutdowns.
Retirees can plan on still receiving their checks because the funds used to pay them are from a retirement trust, and are not based on any of the continuing resolution appropriations.
Medical and Dental
Medical and dental care would be available for service members at on-base facilities even if the government is shut down. TRICARE wouldn’t be impacted so military personnel and families would be free to seek care in the private-sector.
While it is likely that some VA employees would be furloughed, the department’s facilities and clinics would likely remain open and fully functional.
During one of the budgetary crises last year, VA Secretary David Shulkin said to CBS’s Antony Mason “The VA is in a fortunate situation in that we have what’s called an advanced appropriations so we get our money a year ahead of time because I think Congress understands that the VA can’t shut down, that we are there for the safety of our veterans.”