Shutdown Update: USPHS, Coast Guard, NOAA Remain in Flux

Shutdown Update: USPHS, Coast Guard, NOAA Remain in Flux
A U.S. Public Health Service officer reviews medical documents while serving in Puerto Rico last year. Some USPHS officers may not get paid due to the government shutdown. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

(Updated Jan. 16)

By MOAA Staff

As the partial government shutdown enters record territory, uncertainty surrounding pay for uniformed servicemembers past and present outside the DoD continues.

MOAA has advocated for full funding of the government to allow the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to complete their mission and to allow their members to avoid financial hardship. MOAA joined with nearly 30 other veteran service organizations in supporting the Pay our Coast Guard Act and asking that the legislation expand to include NOAA and USPHS officers.

[ACT NOW: You can read The Military Coalition's letter to Congress here, and you can help by sending this MOAA-suggested message to Congress]

Here's where the agencies stand:

  • Coast Guard members and civilian employees: A Coast Guard spokesman told MOAA on Jan. 11 that “if a lapse in appropriation continues, more than 55,000 Coast Guard active duty, reserve, and civilian employees will not receive their monthly pay and benefits.” Four days later, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz announced in a letter that mid-January checks would not be issued. This comes after the service was able to pay its personnel at the end of 2018 despite the shutdown; MOAA has supported congressional efforts to pay the service. Learn more about the situation from here.

  • USPHS Commissioned Corps: All USPHS personnel received their December pay. Moving forward, whether a USPHS officer receives pay depends on his or her assigned agency. USPHS officers at these unfunded agencies will work without pay: Indian Health Services; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Bureau of Federal Prisons; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Commerce; Environmental Protection Agency; Food and Drug Administration (partial); Department of the Interior (including National Parks); Department of Justice; Department of Agriculture. USPHS members are paid on a monthly cycle, so they will not miss a check until the end of January.

  • NOAA Corps: NOAA Corps members did not receive their mid-January paychecks, despite efforts by top officials to find funding that could be appropriated. No funding has been secured for future payments for the 300-plus NOAA Corps members, who are part of the Department of Commerce.

  • All of the above: President Donald Trump on Jan. 16 signed the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which requires all federal employees furloughed or working without pay during the funding lapse to receive back pay "on the earliest date possible after the lapse ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates." The legislation covers uniformed personnel as well as civilian workers.

  • Retirees: The shutdown may affect the retired pay for 50,000 Coast Guard annuitants. “In order for the Coast Guard to pay its active duty, reserve, civilian, and retired members, we will require an FY19 appropriation,” a spokesman told MOAA on Jan. 11. The Coast Guard processes pay for USPHS and NOAA Corps retirees; questions to the service regarding their pay status were not immediately returned.