Facing a terminal illness is among the most difficult experiences a person may have to confront. The emotional and physical pain following such a diagnosis can render a person incapable of day-to-day activities, let alone the ability to work. In addition, priorities shift, and a terminally ill person is more interested in spending time with family, friends or finishing up with good works done in the past than dealing with finances, insurance or other now mundane matters.
Still, those financial and insurance burdens still exist and must be dealt with. And for individuals who have paid into Social Security but can no longer work, Social Security Disability benefits may provide for help with day-to-day living and medical expenses.
Under existing law, there is a five-month waiting period before an individual can receive SSDI benefits, which provides money for basic costs for disabled people. For terminally ill individuals with a short life expectancy, however, that five-month waiting period can render this benefit irrelevant.
With that in mind, three U.S. Senators, John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill that is meant to help terminally ill individuals receive the help they need sooner. The “Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013″ would allow people whose medical condition results in a life expectancy of six months or less to receive:
· Half of SSDI benefits within the first month of diagnosis
· Three-quarters of monthly benefits for the second month
· Full benefits for the third and all following months up to one year
There are qualifiers in the proposed legislation. Should an individual beat the odds and live longer than one year after a terminal diagnosis, a portion of the benefits received during the first five months will be deducted from following payments. Terminally ill patients who live three years or longer after their diagnosis will receive 95 percent of benefits. In addition, in order to avoid abuse of the legislation, should it pass, two separate doctors must diagnose the terminal illness, and those doctors must not be in the same physician group.
The bill also includes provisions that would have the Social Security Administration commissioner submit yearly reports to Congress noting how many terminally ill people received early benefits and how many of those people lived beyond six months and how many lived past one year. The report also would show how much was spent and would include recommendations on preventing fraud, waste and abuse.
For terminally ill people, the earlier the benefits, the better
Social Security Disability Insurance can provide a lifeline for those people facing end-of-life decisions. For terminally ill patients, however, SSDI benefits can be a day late and a dollar short.
The proposed bill is still in committee, although it will have until 2015 to pass. While this legislation is a good attempted step towards helping people who desperately need it, a disabled individual may not be able to navigate what can be a complicated and convoluted process. Disabled individuals and people facing a serious or terminal illness should contact an experienced SSDI attorney to guide them through the process and fight for their deserved benefits.