The 2013 Government Shutdown: Services and Facilities for People with Disabilities

Oct 13, 2013
Tagged with: The 2013 Government Shutdown: Services and Facilities for People with Disabilities

As of October 1st, the government shutdown of 2013 has put a temporary freeze on a range of Federally funded services and facilities pertaining to people with disabilities. Historically, shutdowns of the United States government have lasted anywhere from a day to several weeks. With non-essential services on pause until a solution is reached, here’s what individuals with disabilities can expect from government services in the interim:

WEBSITES

https://www.disability.gov/

Status: Down. A brief message on the site notes, “Please note that inquiries sent to disability@dol.gov will not be answered during this period.”

http://www.ssa.gov/

Status: Running normally. The official website of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

http://www.ssa.gov/shutdown/

A branch off the official website of the SSA, the page offers information specific to the shutdown and its effect on the SSA. It notes that certain SSA services are temporarily unavailable: “We cannot provide the following services: 1. Issue new or replacement Social Security cards; 2. Replace your Medicare card; 3. Issue a proof of income letter.”

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices/

A branch off the official website of the SSA, the page offers links to virtual services remaining open during the shutdown.

http://www.va.gov/    

Status: Running normally. The official website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

http://www.va.gov/opa/appropriations_lapse_plan.asp

A branch off the official website of the VA, the page offers information specific to the shutdown and its effect on the VA. It offers information pertaining to a lapse plan and summary of available/unavailable VA services.

PHYSICAL FACILITIES

Social Security field offices

Status: Open, but with limited services. SS field offices are open to provide limited services, such as assistance in applying for benefits, assistance in requesting appeals, and issuing critical payments. For a complete list of facility functions, refer to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/shutdown/.

SSA hearing offices

Status: Open, but with limited services. SS hearing offices are open to provide hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). Non-critical civil litigation, including enforcement of disability rights, will be curtailed.

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) field offices

Status: Closed. While physical facilities are temporarily closed, veterans can refer to http://benefits.va.gov/benefits/ for information.

What Can be Done in the Meantime?

Despite the closures of certain websites and facilities in the wake of the 2013 shutdown, there are alternatives available for people with disabilities.

http://www.ada.gov/ is the official website of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is fully functional during the shutdown, and provides a toll-free helpline number at (800) 514 – 0301. Its Project Civic Access page, found at http://www.ada.gov/civicac.htm, offers an interactive map as part of an ongoing effort to ensure compliance of local businesses and establishments with physical requirements for people with disabilities.

http://maketheconnection.net/events/injury is another excellent web resource for people with disabilities, with a focus on veterans. Of particular use is their Resources page, found at http://maketheconnection.net/resources, which provides users with a platform to locate and research medical centers, outpatient clinics, and other services by zip code, state, or keyword, no matter where you’re based in the U.S.

Additionally, at https://www.nrd.gov/health/rehabilitation/physical_therapy, the official site of the National Resource Directory, individuals with disabilities can browse virtual and physical resources for physical therapy, rehabilitation centers, and health-care providers.

What Can We Expect for the Future?

VA medical facilities are expected to remain open and funded through 2014. However, other services for veterans with disabilities have been effected by the shutdown. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has stated that, at least through late October, processing of disability claims, disability payments, and education and rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities are expected to continue functioning.

However, the future is uncertain. Shutdowns have never lasted much longer than three weeks, which offers a tenuous hope for veterans with disabilities relying on government programs and services. But if this shutdown outlasts its seventeen brief predecessors, payments as well as claims processing would be put on hold once funding exhausts itself.

About the Author:

Paul Young is a Pennsylvania disability attorney who has been representing clients in social security and disability matters for over 25 years.

Author: Gerald Berkowitz