BY LISA WARREN
Social Security and Medicare benefits will continue despite the federal government shutdown, officials say.
This is because those benefits are mandatory -- not discretionary -- which means that they are not affected by the appropriations process that has become such a point of contention among U.S. lawmakers.
According to the Social Security Administration's contingency plan, released Friday, payments to retirees and the disabled will continue uninterrupted during the shutdown.
The agency needs to furlough 18,000 staffers, or about 30 percent of its workforce, however, so it's closing its card centers.
That means the administration won't be able to issue new or replacement Social Security cards or to replace Medicare cards.
Applications for benefits won't be affected, though, the agency says.
Here is the complete announcement released by the Social Security Administration on its website at http://www.ssa.gov.
"In the event of a federal government shutdown Oct. 1, Social Security field offices will remain open with limited services.
"Hearings offices will remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security card centers will be closed," the release says.
"Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates," the release continues.
The following services will continue to be provided at Social Security field offices:
* Help in applying for benefits
* Assistance in requesting an appeal
* Changing addresses or direct deposit information
* Accepting reports of death
* Verifying or changing citizenship status
* Replacing a lost or missing Social Security payment
* Issuing a critical payment
* Changing a representative payee
* Processing a change in a beneficiary's living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only).
SERVICES NOT AVAILABLE
The Social Security field offices will not be:
* issuing new or replacement Social Security cards;
* replacing Medicare cards, or
* issuing proof of income letters.
"If your visit involves any Social Security-related service not listed above, we regret we are unable to assist you. We regret any inconvenience. Our Online Services will remain open," the release says.
The Social Security Administration office in Greenevile is located at 1618 Old Tusculum Road.
The telephone number is 1-877-405-0416.
Social Security Administration