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The government shutdown and Social Security Disability claims

How is the government shutdown affecting the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims process? Well, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that existing benefits will be paid and Social Security Administration (SSA) offices will remain open -- although you can generally expect longer lines and as well as longer wait times on the phone.

The bad news is likely to hit those who are still in the midst of the claims process or just now starting their claims. While SSA offices remain open, a number of clerical employees and support personnel are furloughed during the shutdown. In practical terms, that means you can expect longer delays than ever to get a disability claim approved and processed -- ones that will likely carry over even after the shutdown ends.

Similarly, those people who already have hearing dates scheduled before an administrative law judge (ALJ) should still receive their hearings. However, no new hearings are likely to be scheduled. In addition, even those who do have hearings aren't likely to get a decision until after the shutdown is over.

There's no one available to do the work of scheduling the hearings, transcribing the ALJ decisions and mailing out notices. In addition, you won't be able to get benefit verification letters if you are approved. Those are some of the vital tasks that SSA's clerical staff members handle.

The lack of benefit letters may seem relatively small, except that many people on SSDI and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) need those verifications in order to qualify for essential housing and medical assistance through the state.

No matter what's happening with the government, you still can't afford to delay filing your SSDI application. It's also important to file your appeal on any denials in a timely manner -- despite the line you may have to wade through. Because of the exponential effects the shutdown may cause if it goes on, it's smarter than ever to get legal guidance for your claim.

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