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Congressional bill would end waiting period for SSD benefits


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is supposed to help people who are too injured or ill to work. American workers fund the SSDI program through their payroll taxes. Thus, it is available to people in Houston, and everywhere else in the country, if they have worked long enough and have a qualifying medical condition. The waiting period for receiving benefits can, however, pose substantial hardships for some people who need SSDI.

Under the current SSDI system, the wait time for receiving benefits is five months. Congress intentionally designed the system this way so that people with shorter-term injuries and illness would not qualify for benefits. Furthermore, Congress wanted to keep people who really could work from trying to get Social Security disability instead of working.

While Congress's reasoning behind the waiting period may sound reasonable, the five-month timeframe is unworkable for many people. For example, some people who have terminal illnesses may not even live long enough to receive the benefits that they should get for their inability to work. Accordingly, instead of being able to concentrate on their health, family and end-of-life decisions, people in this position have to worry about finding ways to pay their bills in the absence of SSD benefits.

Because of this difficult situation for people who cannot wait for five months to get their benefits, two U.S. Senators have proposed legislation to fix the problem. Their proposal would end the five-month waiting period for SSD applicants who have a life expectancy of six months or less. The bill provides that people in this situation would get partial benefits for the first two months after they apply and are approved, and then full benefits starting in the third month.

The legislative proposal sounds sensible and helpful, but nothing is a sure thing when it comes to Congress. In addition, the bill could get engulfed by other looming debates about the solvency of Social Security as a whole.

People who are unable to work and need disability benefits should not wait for Congress or anyone else to lend a hand. They should begin the application as quickly as possible and consider getting help from an experienced Social Security attorney if they run into any roadblocks during the process.

Source: Cleveland.com, "If you're terminally ill, you still must wait for Social Security benefits," Stephen Koff, Sept. 9, 2015

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