WASHINGTON — The good news for troops and furloughed government employees concerned about the ongoing government shutdown is that it won’t stop their paychecks this week.
After Friday, however, it’s a different story.
On Monday, tens of thousands of defense civilian employees reported to work only to be sent back home because of the ongoing government shutdown. Servicemembers are required to stay on duty, even though they won’t be paid for work done during the shutdown.
But none of the political fighting will affect paychecks due out this Friday, White House officials announced over the weekend. Since the last pay period for all troops and most civilian workers ended Jan. 19, those checks will be processed and funds sent out on their normal schedule.
The same goes for guardsmen and reservists, and for all military entitlements owed through Jan. 19 — things like housing stipends and specialty pays.
Military retirement checks and veterans benefits will continue as scheduled through the shutdown because they are not handled through the lapsed appropriations funds.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that plenty of other pay issues are being affected by the shutdown, and more will mount after this week if the shutdown continues.
Death gratuities, for example, cannot be processed and paid until after the shutdown ends. That means the families of two soldiers killed in a Saturday training accident in California will have to wait until after new congressional action before they can receive support payments from the military.
And if the shutdown lingers into late January, it will cause significant problems for the next military and civilian pay day, Feb. 9. Troops will receive belated credit for their hours worked, but furloughed employees will need retroactive legislation from Congress to get paid for the time they miss.
White House officials have said they would support that retroactive pay for government workers.
Senate lawmakers are expected to vote Monday afternoon on a new budget bill which could end the shutdown. If that fails, they have pending a series of measures to reauthorize death gratuities, military paychecks and other defense pay issues while the impasse drags on.
Members of Congress continue to get their pay throughout any shutdown, since their salaries are protected separately through the Constitution.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.