Shutdown! How Military Families Are Affected
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that most non-essential government functions have shut down effective the start of the 2014 fiscal year, because Congress and the President were unable to agree on a budget.
I say “most” non-essential government functions, because this Administration obviously deems it critically important to its functioning that we pay a number of federal workers to erect barricades to the open-air WWII Memorial, wire them shut, and threaten our older veterans with arrest if they visit.
Commissary workers, however? They aren’t considered essential at all. At least not in the United States, though overseas commissaries will remain open.
Military pay for active duty troops will continue through the shutdown. Congress and the President agreed to fund salaries for uniformed military and selected civilian employees at the beginning of this week. However, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, interpreted the Congressional bill to exclude members of the National Guard, including full-time military technicians. This news came as a surprise to some Congressional Republicans who passed the bill: “I believe along with many others that he has improperly furloughed the National Guard employees,” said Candice Miller, (R – Michigan). “That was certainly not the intent of the act that we passed. For them to be furloughed — I quite frankly was stunned when he did that after we passed that bill.
Is retiree pay affected?
Not directly by the shutdown. Retiree pay comes out of a different pot of money than the one Congress is fighting over now. However, even if a budget is approved, we have another Congressional battle looming over the debt limit. Unless Congress approves additional borrowing, the federal government will no longer have access to the 40 cents out of ever dollar it’s been borrowing to finance spending. At that point, all bets are off, and nearly everything goes on the table. Military retiree pay could be reduced or even eliminated under that scenario. However, our view is that the threat of such a shutdown will drive both sides in Congress to strike a deal of some sort to avoid it.
If you are distressed by money problems, or feeling depressed and suicidal, rest easy: The counselors at Military OneSource are still phoning it in. They will be happy to refer you to other federal agencies which are now closed.
If you’re stressed because you have small children and you need assistance with child care, again, all bets are off. The DoD has helpfully suggested you call your local child care activity on base for further guidance. Generally, federal Child Development Centers will remain open, according to the Military Family Association. However, school-aged care programs may be rolled back or eliminated in your area unless attached to a CDC.
DoD schools remain open.
The exchanges will be open for business. AAFES and the Navy-Marine Corps Exchange do not receive federal appropriations, so don’t rely on Congress for anything.
Tuition Assistance – the same TA benefit that the DoD tried to strangle last spring to save money, will grind to a halt. No benefits will be disbursed for new classes until further notice.
Education centers are closed. This includes computer labs and counseling centers.
MyCAA, or My Career Assistance Accounts, are closed to new requests until further notice. However, military spouses with benefits approved before October 1 are good to go. You can attend class. More information available at the SECO website here. Or call 800-342-9647.
You may see a reduction of hours at military clinics and hospitals. However, inpatient, emergency and dental care operations at TRICARE clinics will continue, as will TRICARE’s private sector operations. So you should still be able to see a non-military doctor if that provider is within the TRICARE system.
If you have an appointment you made before the shutdown, TRICARE officials encourage you to call to confirm it. Your clinic’s hours may have changed since the shutdown.
TRICARE cannot process travel claims under TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Combat-Related Specialty Care during the shutdown. You can still file, a claim, but new claims won’t be approved until the shutdown ends.