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New SSDI legislation aims to help the terminally ill receive benefits

On July 17, 2013, Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming along with Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced a bill that would expedite the payment of benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance to participants who suffer with terminal illnesses. If passed, the bill would eliminate the five month waiting period before benefits are paid out.

Legislators behind the bill state that those who suffer from terminal illnesses should not spend five months worrying about whether or not they can cover the cost of rent or grocery bills. Instead, these individuals should receive their disability benefits within the first month.

The bill defines "terminally ill" as a prognosis with a life expectance of six months or less. In an effort to avoid fraudulent claims, the bill also requires two physicians from different practices certify the prognosis. The bill, referred to as the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013, is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.

Those who qualify for payments under the bill would receive half of their monthly benefits the first month, 75 percent the second month and full payments the third through twelfth month. If benefits extend past the full year, the beneficiary would receive the regular amount minus a portion to compensate for skipping the five month waiting period during the second year. During the third year the beneficiary would receive 95 percent the regular benefit amount.

Current terminal illness procedure

The U.S. Social Security Administration currently attempts to treat terminal illness cases with sensitivity. These cases, referred to as TERI cases, can include those awaiting heart, lung or liver transplants, malignant cancers that have spread, are inoperable or are classified as Stage IV cancers as well as the following:

  • Cancer of the liver.
  • Cancer of the pancreas.
  • Cancer of the brain.
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia or Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
  • Small Cell or Oat Cell lung cancer.

Terminal illnesses are just one path to expedited payment through the SSD system. Applicants can also qualify for the compassionate allowance or quick disability determination programs.

Because of the many options, those applying for Social Security Disability Benefits should contact an experienced disability law attorney. These professionals can help review your case, discuss your options and assist you in putting together a more successful application. If you have already applied and were denied benefits, this legal professional can also assist you in the appeals process.