Category Archives: Katrinia Matthews

Social Security Is Safe In a Federal Shutdown

We have many social security clients so I thought this article would reassure those who collect social security payments



NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — What happens to Social Security if the government shuts down?


“People don’t get their Social Security checks.” That was President Obama at a press conference last week.



And this is Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, in a statement on Tuesday: “A shutdown could … mean no Social Security checks for seniors.”


The Democrats are saber rattling, hoping to portray Republicans as irresponsible. And the claim has been repeated by other top Democrats.


Here’s the rub: It doesn’t appear to be true.


During the last major shutdown, which lasted about a month starting in late 1995, the Social Security Administration mailed checks throughout the crisis, and a close reading of established law makes clear the agency has the legal authority to do so again.


“I am absolutely sure the checks would be sent out,” said John F. Cooney, a partner at law firm Venable who designed shutdown plans for the government while employed at the Office of Management and Budget.


Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, backed that view, saying claims that benefits won’t be paid are “not true.”


The legal case is pretty clear. In 1995, President Clinton’s lawyers in the Department of Justice laid out how federal agencies should operate if Congress failed to appropriate funds.


Running the government on 8¢

At the time, Clinton’s lawyers pointed out that Social Security checks could be mailed during a shutdown, because the program doesn’t need Congress to authorize funds for it each year. Instead, Social Security benefits are paid from the program’s trust fund.


“The shutdown refers to discretionary spending, and Social Security is mandatory spending. It doesn’t need an appropriations bill to go forward,” Reischauer said.


And because Social Security benefits — which go to roughly 60 million Americans — are paid out of the trust fund, the agency has the implied legal authority to keep paying staffers who administer them.


That’s exactly what happened in 1995-1996. While some Social Security Administration employees were sent home, the agency’s official written history notes that essential staff stayed on to make sure benefits were paid.


“The majority of the employees retained were in direct service positions to ensure the continuance of benefits to currently enrolled Social Security,” the document reads.


According to Cooney, that legal interpretation has been supported by both Republican and Democratic administrations.


The White House, Majority Leader Reid and the Office of Management and Budget did not respond when asked by CNNMoney for clarification.


What does happen in a shutdown

To be sure, a government shutdown would have severe consequences. In 1995-1996, the government closed 368 National Park Service sites, along with national museums and monuments, and cleanup at toxic waste sites stopped, according to the Congressional Research Service.


Each government agency is required to produce a plan that it would implement in the event of a shutdown and to file it with the Office of Management and Budget.


OMB declined to make those plans available to CNNMoney, but it is likely the Social Security Administration’s plan would result in a sizeable number of non-essential employees staying home.


But even once a shutdown goes into effect, agencies have some room to maneuver.


During the Clinton-era shutdown, new Social Security claims weren’t being processed because the agency furloughed 61,415 employees. As the shutdown wore on, the agency adjusted its plan and recalled workers to start processing new claims.



The good news, if you can call it that, is that Congress has come down to the wire many times before and has usually managed to pass a funding bill.


But with Congress in recess this week, lawmakers will have only four working days to pass a spending bill before the current temporary measure expires.


The starting point for negotiations is a bill approved by the House just before dawn on Saturday that would cut $60 billion in federal spending for the current fiscal year.


But that bill would set spending below levels acceptable to Democrats. President Obama said last week he would veto the House measure should it reach his desk.


On Tuesday, OMB said it is prepared for “any contingency” and so are all agencies, but that a shutdown is unlikely.


“All of this is besides the point since, as the congressional leadership has said on a number of occasions and as the president has made clear, no one anticipates or wants a government shutdown,” Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director, said in a statement.


The outcome of this standoff remains to be seen. While the last major shutdown happened 15 years ago, that impasse resulted from a Democratic president bumping heads with a willful Republican-controlled House that wanted to lower spending.


That episode is generally considered a major political victory for Clinton, and a defeat for Republicans who were viewed by the public as obstructionist.


If you have questions about Social Security benefits contact Katrinia at 248-624-5500 or by email at


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What To Do If You’re Denied Social Security

If you were denied social security disability there are steps you can take to have the decision reviewed. You also have the option to file a new application. This blog will show you how to appeal an unfavorable decision and teach you when to file an appeal verses a new application.

The bad news is that you were denied benefits the good news is you still have rights that can get you the money you need and deserve.

First you must request a review.  You can either write a letter or use the form provided by the Social Security Administration. The form is labeled HA-520 and here is the link:

Please remember time is of the essence. You only have 60 days from the day you receive the denial notice to file an appeal.

There are 3 ways to file a request:

1.  File at any local social security office.
2.  File at a hearing office.
3.  Mail your request:
Appeals Council,Office of Disability Adjudication and Review,5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3255

Make sure to include the social security number

When you file an appeal you are allowed to submit new information. This can be helpful because sometimes with the first application there may have been medical records that could not be obtained in time. There may have also been errors in the records which hurt your case and they can be corrected and addressed in the appeal.

Now let’s take a look at filing a New application.  You are allowed to file a new application at any point. I suggest you only do this if you do not have the option to appeal.  Because when you file a new application you run the risk of losing some benefits.

This can be an overwhelming and stressful process.  If you want someone to take you through this process feel free to contact me.  There is never an upfront fee to you.

Katrinia M. Matthews
Non-Attorney Representative
for Ambrose Law Group
(248 )624-5500

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