Social Security Disability Insurance helps many Americans make ends meet when illness or injury prevents them from working. But for those who are terminally ill, the disability benefits often come too late. That’s because there is a five-month waiting period before an eligible recipient can actually start receiving the benefits. For someone with only a few months to live, that wait may mean never receiving the benefits at all.
The waiting period was originally intended to allow time to make sure an applicant’s disability was not simply a short-term health problem. It was also intended to discourage people who could work from applying for Social Security Disability benefits. But for those who are terminally ill, neither of these justifications has any merit.
Now a couple of U.S. Senators are trying to do something about this unacceptable situation. Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming have joined forces in a bipartisan effort to change the law. Under their proposal, if two doctors verify that the applicant has six months or less to live, the waiting period would be eliminated. The patient would initially receive partial benefits of 50 percent in the first month and 75 percent in the second. Beginning with the third month they would receive 100 percent of their benefits. If the patient ends up living longer than a year, there would be a reduction of future benefits to cover the cost of those paid over the first five months.
A person dealing with terminal illness should not have to worry about how they are going to pay the bills. Brown’s and Barrasso’s proposed law is a humane and reasonable solution to a problem that brings unnecessary stress to families who are already suffering.
Source: Cleveland.com, “If you’re terminally ill, you still must wait for Social Security benefits,” Stephen Koff, Sept. 9, 2015