What The Government Shutdown Means to Military Families

The news of the latest government shutdown is causing panic amongst many military families. A quick look on my Facebook feed and all you see is chatter with my friends asking questions such as, “Will my child’s school be closed?” to the most pressing of questions, “Will we even get paid?”

So what should we expect during a government shutdown? Military personnel on active duty will continue working and carry on day to day operations. They may also be expected to work longer hours as they fill in for furloughed civilian employees. Will they still get paid? The short answer is yes, but WHEN they will get paid is the real question. Government shutdowns can delay military paychecks. This means that active duty military will not get paid until congress provides funding.

Many of my friends are winter movers. If you are due to PCS during this time there may be changes so please check accordingly.

If you are nonessential civilian personnel you will be furloughed using lapse in appropriations procedures and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance. Exceptions will be made if your position is determined to be critical.

On base daycares stay open during government shutdowns but on a limited basis, only to key and essential personnel. Before moving to Okinawa, I worked as a dental hygienist at a military hospital and I was told that my position was not considered “key and essential” so in the case of a government shutdown I would be furloughed and had no daycare available to me. While on base daycares are affected by the government shutdown, Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools remain open.

Overseas commissaries are considered “essential” so they remain open during government shutdowns while stateside commissaries close. Base Exchanges operate on different funding so they remain open.

Last but not least, the American Forces Network (AFN) which broadcasts American television channels and radio stations to troops and families overseas goes off the air. This leaves many without the ability to watch sports or in our case in Okinawa, listen to the one radio station that’s in English.

Hopefully congress and the administration will quickly come to an agreement to a funding bill. If you want to be proactive, contact your Senators and your Representative. In the meantime, military families must plan appropriately and have a family contingency plan.

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