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Bill would provide financial relief to terminal SSDI claimants

When a disabled person’s application for Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is approved, there is a five-month wait period before monthly cash benefits begin. This time can be difficult financially for those waiting for payments to start because their regular income was likely interrupted by their disabling conditions.

Most tragically, for those claimants with terminal illnesses, there is a risk of passing away during the five-month waiting period without seeing a dime of benefits, which has happened.

To remedy this situation, two U.S. senators introduced bipartisan legislation along with six additional cosponsors that would allow new claimants with fatal illnesses or injuries to collect partial benefits beginning in month one instead of waiting for five months. An eligible claimant with a fatal condition would get one-half their monthly benefit in month one, followed by three-quarters in month two and full benefits each month for the rest of year one.

If the claimant is still alive, benefit amounts in the second year would be reduced to recover the benefits prepaid during the first five months. Any benefits paid out after year two would be at a 95% rate.

The definition of terminal illness for this purpose would be a “medical prognosis that his or her life expectancy is six months or less,” according to a news release by one of the sponsors, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

The other sponsor is Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who said that the legislation “would ensure that terminally ill patients can spend their final months without the added worry of knowing if or when they’ll receive benefits”

Two separate doctors must certify that the claimant has a terminal illness that meets the definition.

The Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act, if enacted, would sunset in five years at which time Congress could reassess its effectiveness.


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