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The 2018 Government Shutdown Impact On Social Security Disability Claimants

December 28, 2018

As rumors circled about the government shutting down, many disability claimants began wondering how they might be impacted.

washington dc capitol building with the text sorry, we're closed due to the government shutdown

Social Security disability claimants with cases pending in federal court received a lump of coal on the day after Christmas courtesy of the partial government shutdown.

A shutdown-related lapse of funding for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio has resulted in the immediate suspension of civil litigation in cases involving the United States as a party. Importantly, “civil litigation” includes, without limitation, all Social Security cases.

Absent funding, Department of Justice attorneys and employees of the federal government are prohibited from working. Employees are unable to work even on a voluntary basis.

The U.S. Attorney serves as defense counsel when disability attorneys take up a disability claimant’s matter to the District Court. Therefore, if defense counsel cannot work, then the cases cannot be litigated.

On December 26, 2018, Chief Judge Patricia Gaughan issued General Order No. 2018-15 explaining the suspension earlier today. Chief Judge Gaughan ordered civil litigation “immediately suspended, postponed and held in abeyance continuing for a period of fourteen (14) days from the date of entry of this General Order [December 26, 2018].”

The Court may renew or modify this General Order depending on developments in the stay period. In other words, the two-week suspension may be shortened or lengthened depending on how long it takes Washington to get its act together.

It remains unclear how many days, weeks, or months the shutdown will last. The means disability claimants will be faced with unfortunate delays in the interim.

Have questions about how the shutdown impacts you as a disability claimant?

If you have questions, we invite you to contact us or leave a comment in the comment section below. Please do not leave any personal information as we want to respect your privacy.


  1. Dawn R on January 27, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Can you please clarify if pending means all cases that are open, or just the scheduled future hearing dates, post-hearing decision period, etc?

    • Balin Law on February 4, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Dawn,

      The stay lasted from 12/26/2018 to 1/28/2019. This applied to pending cases at the District Court and Circuit Court levels. These cases were already denied by an Administrative Law Judge and the Appeals Council, and have been appealed to federal court. Cases pending at the administrative level awaiting a hearing or awaiting decision writing following a hearing were thankfully NOT impacted by the partial government shutdown.

  2. Paula A Wheeler on January 24, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    I did appeal on my ss disability will goverment shut down affect it.

    • Balin Law on February 4, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Paula,

      It depends on the level at which the appeal was filed. If you’re unsure, check with your attorney. If you’re unrepresented, we’d consider finding an attorney. Most disability attorneys work on a contingency basis, i.e., you do not owe them anything unless they win your case.

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