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SPECIAL REPORT: THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
AbledIssues Link Banner shows a photo of the US Capitol building on a sunny day with the headline: US Government Shutdown: Is it impacting Special Needs? Four gradient black to transparent frames flank the Capitol dome as a backdrop to the bullit-point summaries for each category: Food Safety: FDA/CDC Workers furloughed. Update: Some recalled for salmonella outbreak. Routine inspections suspended. Under Health, NIH: No new patients-exception for 12. FDA: Reviews and Approvals halted for Rx and products. CDC: Outbreak monitoring limited. Under the Military summary, Disability: Backlog of claims stalled. Death Benefits: Halted. Update: President signs bill to restore benefits to families of the fallen. And under the final category Social benefits: Social Security/Medicare: Benefits being paid out. Disability: Possible delays in new applications. Unemployment: being paid. A red diagonal transparent banner contains the headline: UPDATE: Congress votes to end shutdown - President Signs Bill. Click to go to the story.

Split-screen photo shows the lawn of the National Mall with the Capitol building in the distance with a sign in the foreground stating, 'Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are Closed'. The photo on the right shows a similar sign on a portable gate on the driveway at the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Tracking the impact of the shutdown on those who are most in need

UPDATE (Oct.16): IT’S OVER! GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN ENDS AFTER 16 DAYS

After a little over two weeks of a back-and-firth game of political ‘chicken’, U.S. President Barrack Obama moved quickly to sign an 11th hour deal passed by Congress to end the partial government shutdown and rescue the world’s largest economy from the brink of an unprecedented debt default.

The House of representatives voted 285-144 to end the stalemate after the Senate voted 81-18 to end the political standoff. President Obama signed the bill into law just just a half-hour after midnight eastern time. Federal workers returned to work later that same Thursday.

 

 

On CBS’ ‘Face The Nation‘, host Bob Schieffer says it’s not just federal workers who have been hurt by the political games in Washington:

 

 

Two weeks into the U.S. Federal Government shutdown, the political stalemate continues, and as more time goes by, more services risk being reduced or halted altogether.

It’s been particularly tough on communities and people reliant on tourism because of the closure of national parks, although the federal government is now giving state governments the option of using their own funds to cover park operations.

Let’s take you through the categories that affect our general health and welfare and give you a status report on whether they are being impacted:

 

Food Safety

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have furloughed much of their staff, but claim they can handle recalls and food-borne outbreaks that are high risk.

However, the CDC had to re-call many of those employees to deal with the salmonella outbreak in raw chicken that has sickened as many as 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico and put 42% of them in the hospital.

Read more in our AbledALERTTM ongoing coverage of the outbreak.

 

In this photo from NPR/AP, Former Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer dressed in white sanitation overalls, hairnet, glovers and safety glasses with a coral red helmet,  follows the work of USDA inspectors at a Cargill meat packing plant in Schuyler, Nebraska in 2008.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required, by law, to have meat inspectors on the processing lines in meatpacking plants every day in order for the plants to remain open – and, so far, those inspections are proceeding as usual.

 

Health

Medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been affected, delaying some studies. Usually, about 200 new patients enroll every week in studies at the NIH research hospital, but because of the government shutdown, that has been halted. They have made an exception to allow 12 patients with immediate life-threatening illnesses into clinical trials.

The CDC’s tracking ability for disease outbreaks, such as the flu or the MERS virus from the Middle East has been severely limited.

 

This 2005 photograph depicts one of the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) staff microbiologists using an electronic pipetter to extract reconstructed 1918 Pandemic Influenza Virus from a calibrated vial containing a supernatant culture medium. The image was captured in a Biosafety Level 3-enhanced laboratory setting, where this scientist was working beneath a flow hood, whereupon, air outside the hood is pulled into the hood’s confines and is then filtered of any pathogens before being re-circulated inside the self contained laboratory atmosphere.

 

The FDA has halted the evaluation and approval process for pharmaceutical drugs and medical products.

 

Military

If the government shutdown drags-on into November, $6 billion worth of checks won’t go out, and that will be a double-blow to the 33% of Veteran’s Affairs employees who are veterans themselves.

 

A photo shows the Department of Veterans' Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, California with a curved caramel brick and glass facade set into the middle of diagonal rectangular lighter sandstone colored wings.

 

Inpatient and outpatient care at hospitals and Vet centers is still being provided because the Congressional funding for it is approved a year in advance. But efforts to reduce the backlog in disability claims have stalled because overtime for claims processors has been cut-off, and compensation and pension payments will be halted if the shutdown rolls into late October.

When the government shutdown began, it halted the authority of the Defense Department to pay the typical $100 thousand death gratuities to the survivors of fallen U.S. Armed Forces members killed in action. That cash payment is usually made within three days of the service member’s passing. 

The Defense Department had a Plan B in the form of contracting with the Fisher House Foundation, which supports military families, to provide the $100 thousand payments for the duration of the government shutdown, pending repayment. But a few days later, President  Barack Obama signed legislation that Congress had passed to resume the payments, while the politicians were left fighting among themselves over who to blame for the interruption of the payments.

 

Social Benefits

Medicare and Social Security benefits are being paid out. Unemployment benefits continue to be paid. However, there could be delays in processing new disability applications.

The biggest immediate area of concern is for nine million moms and babies at risk because the $7 billion dollar Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children – known simply as ‘WIC’ – was expected to run out of money. Some states have stopped accepting new participants.

 

A screen grab from the USDA's website shows information about the WIC program at a glance. Click on the photo to go to the USDA website.

 

UPDATE:

The the USDA has announced it is reallocating funding to cover WIC costs for the remainder of the month. WIC provides formula and breastfeeding support, as well as nutrition education for mothers and children across the country in co-ordination with state Departments of Health.

 

Graphic design shows the logo of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which features a green bag full of groceries, such as a milk carton, egg carton, bread,fruit and vegetables in solid colors in stencil form next to the words that make up the acronym SNAP.

On the morning of Saturday, October 12th, recipients of federal food stamps in several states, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and some WIC recipients were blocked from being able to use their payment cards and tokens when a computer failure caused a system shutdown in the network provided by subcontractor Xerox.

A Xerox representative said the glitch, which occurred during a test of back-up systems, was fixed by Saturday night.

 

 

 

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AbledNews Ongoing Coverage of the U.S. Government Shutdown headline is shown over a nightime photograph of the Capitol Building with the seal of Congress shown in the bottom foreground.

 

Visit Abled.com often as we continue to monitor the impact of the U.S. Government Shutdown on persons with special needs and others dependent on social programs.

 

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