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SSDI claimants with ALS may become able to receive benefits faster

Normally, when the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application, the claimant receives their first monthly payment of benefits in the sixth month after the agency found the disability began. This five-month waiting period can be difficult financially and emotionally for disabled people who have been unable to work – sometimes even for months or years if the person had to repeatedly appeal the application.

It is especially difficult for people with catastrophic injuries and illnesses to wait another five months for financial support after SSDI approval. Unfortunately, people sometimes die during this waiting period.

SSDI disability based on ALS

But for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal, untreatable neurodegenerative disease impacting the spinal cord and brain, financial relief is (hopefully) on the way.

On Dec. 8, Congress passed the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act with support from both major parties and after years of ALS advocates educating lawmakers about ALS and keeping the waiting-period issue alive. The Act would eliminate the five-month waiting period for SSDI claimants with ALS, which would be especially compassionate for these people since ALS causes victims to lose the ability to move their muscles voluntarily, so they probably have been unable to work for a while by the time they are approved.

In recognition of this, the law that requires a two-year wait for SSDI recipients until Medicare begins was amended in 2000 to exempt claimants with ALS, allowing their medical coverage to begin immediately. The new bill would be consistent with the Medicare accommodation.

As of this Dec. 19 writing, Westlaw and Congress.gov both indicate that President Trump received the bill, but do not say that he has either signed or vetoed it. But the bill passed with bipartisan support so advocates hope that the president will sign it in that spirit.