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The Facts: A Government Shutdown Won’t Hurt the Military or Vets

Claims that a government shutdown standoff could harm our nation’s defense or its military personnel and veterans are incorrect.

What happens to the military and veterans during a government shutdown?

Claim: During a shutdown, our military personnel could be put at risk, and overseas military operations could be impeded.

Fact: “[During a shutdown,] the Secretary of Defense would ensure mission accomplishment of critical activities that are needed to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, to complete the military mission in Iraq, and to ensure safety of human life and protection of property including operations for the security of our nation,” and “robust support for those engaged in war would continue (ammunition, vests, equipment…etc.).” — House Armed Services Committee [5]

Claim: In a shutdown, our national security could be put at risk.

Fact: In a government shutdown, federal functions and personnel deemed “essential” are required to continue their service through the shutdown. In 1981 the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed that “essential” personnel “should maintain the staff and support services necessary to continue [their] essential functions.”[1] The first item on OMB’s list of “essential” functions is: “provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life.” [2]

Claim: During a shutdown, military personnel are furloughed.

Fact: “In any shutdown plan, all military personnel would be deemed exempt and would not be subject to furlough.” — House Committee on Armed Services [5]

Claim: During a shutdown, military pay ceases.

Fact: According to, “if the past is any indication, active duty servicemembers are not likely to miss any paychecks.”[6] While it is possible that payments to active military personnel may be delayed, they will continue to accrue their full pay, and it will be paid in full as soon as an appropriation bill is enacted for the Department of Defense.[5] Congress can easily ensure the continuity of military pay in any future budget standoff by simply passing a standalone appropriation for it. ”Military pay was specifically exempted from the ten shutdowns that occurred between 1980 and 1996 [4]. How long could military personnel go without seeing their paycheck? It’s unlikely to be very long. Historically, only the three-week shutdown in 1996 has lasted more than three days.

Claim: A shutdown would negatively affect VA health facilities and veterans health care programs and claims.

Fact: According to a guide published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA health care services would not be impacted by a shutdown, nor would claims cease to be processed. Certain non-urgent services would be slowed down or would stop, but the most essential functions of the VA, including GI Bill payments, insurance claims, and VA hospitals, would be unaffected unless the White House took specific measures to act otherwise.[7]

Claim: A shutdown could harm disabled veterans and survivors.

Fact: “[In any shutdown plan,] disabled veterans in receipt of disability compensation or pension checks should continue to receive those payments,” as will “survivors currently in receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.” — House Committee on Veterans Affairs [5]






[6] (see also:




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