Terry Howell is Military.com’s managing editor for benefits. He is a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer and disabled veteran.
The rumors of a government shutdown can cause anxiety for service members and their families. But, as is normally the case, the rumors are often more exaggerated than the reality. In fact, the worry and anxiety are likely to cause more long-term damage than the shutdown itself. While there is no argument that the shutdown will have an immediate impact on those who count on government services, the greatest impact for most service members and their families has been averted.
The threat to military was taken away when the President signed a last minute deal to protect military pay from the shutdown. This move ensures the funds are available for pay and allowances to members of the Armed Forces, including reserve components who perform active service during the shutdown. The new law also covers pay and allowances for certain civilian personnel and contractors of the Department of Defense (and the Department of Homeland Security in the case of the Coast Guard) who continue to provide support to members of the Armed Forces.
In addition to military pay protections, military health care system, base security, emergency services, DoDEA schools, Base Exchanges,and other essential services will continue to operate.
Unfortunately, servicemembers stationed stateside saw the closure of their commissaries and limited access to some on-base MWR type activities. Considering DoD plans to furlough up to 400K civilians, troops are likely to see limitations to services provided by DoD civilian employees and delays in travel orders, travel pay, special pay, bonuses, tuition assistance and other administrative processes.
NOTE: This shutdown will not impact military pensions, VA health care, disability pay or GI Bill benefits. However, some warn that there is an increased threat to some VA benefits processes.
Service members should keep in mind that the effects of the shutdown are temporary, and most government officials expect to see the situation resolved within a few weeks. However, it is important for members to plan for the worst case scenario. The first step service members should take is to contact their banks, mortgage company and other creditors to let them know there may be an issue due to the shutdown.
Simply put – be prepared for the worst, but don’t be anxious. This too shall pass.