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Looming government shutdown: Your questions answered

Sep. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Sun Rises Behind U.S. Capitol Building
The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol building on Sept. 20. The government faces a potential shutdown if Congress can't agree on funding by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
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Showdown Over a Shutdown

If the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill fail to agree on a temporary spending deal by Monday, the US government will shut down for the first time since 1996. Click here for complete coverage.

With a government shutdown looming at midnight Monday, Sept. 30, if Congress and the White House cannot agree on funding, here is a guide to the potential impact.

Do service members report to work on Tuesday?

Yes, military members have to work even if there is no defense funding bill.

What about civilians?

Federal civilian workers will report to work on Tuesday morning, but about half are expected to be sent home. Essential workers and all political appointees will continue to work, but nonessential employees will be expected to remain only long enough to pass must-do tasks to someone else and secure their workspaces.

Will we be paid?

Oct. 1 deposits will have been made to active-duty military members’ bank accounts before the midnight Sept. 30 deadline for a shutdown. Whether service members receive their mid-month checks will depend on how long a government shutdown continues. Service members won’t be paid again after Oct. 1 until Congress provides funding, and they also won’t receive their normal mid-month checks unless the funding dispute is resolved by about Oct. 7, because of the time it takes to process the payroll.

Pentagon officials have not worked out details for paying drilling reservists.

Federal workers, who may have different pay dates, face the same issue. Even if they work, they won’t be paid until funding it restored.

It is not certain that nonessential federal civilians will be paid for days when they did not work. Congress has approved back pay of this kind after previous government shutdowns, but that was in a different fiscal climate.

Will military retirees be paid?

Military retiree and survivors benefits are not dependent on regular appropriations, so monthly checks are not affected by a government shutdown. However, retirement checks could be delayed or reduced by a second fiscal crisis that is expected to hit later in October when the federal government reaches its $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

Will healthcare be limited?

Military hospitals and health and dental clinics could be limited to treatment for active-duty service members only, or for acute care and emergencies for other patients. Tricare coverage is not expected to be immediately affected because contracts for the Tricare providers are not limited to a single year.

Is military travel affected by a shutdown?

Permanent change of station moves are likely to be delayed if the government runs out of money, but the order to stop travel would not take effect right away. People already in the process of moving to a new duty station would continue to move. Those on temporary duty travel would be ordered to return home. But troop movements related to deployments would continue.

Will commissaries and exchanges be open?

On-base shoppers can expect a mixed bag: Exchanges are expected to remain open. Stateside commissaries are expected to be closed but overseas commissaries or those in remote areas of the U.S. could remain open.

What about family housing maintenance and operations?

If you live in privatized housing — owned and operated by civilian companies — you shouldn’t see any effects. The civilian employees will be there to take your maintenance phone calls and to do the maintenance. If you live in the small percentage of family housing that is still owned by the government, there may be problems with maintenance if the government employees are not working.

What about dining halls?

Dining halls will remain open because feeding service members is considered an essential duty of the Defense department.

Staff writers Karen Jowers and Patricia Kime contributed to this report.

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