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Proposal Would Improve Access to Disability Benefits for Terminally Ill

Federal lawmakers from both sides of the aisle joined forces recently to introduce a bill aimed at giving terminally ill disabled individuals faster access to Social Security Disability benefits. If passed, the legislation would help ease the financial burden on terminally ill people and their family members by providing Social Security benefits several months sooner than they are typically available under existing law.

The proposed legislation, known as the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013, would allow certain people to receive SSDI benefits without completing the five-month waiting period that is required under existing law.

Ramping up to full benefit amount

If passed, the bill would provide partial benefits on an almost immediate basis for terminally ill disabled individuals with a life expectancy of six months or less, then ramping up to the full benefit amount over a period of three months. Thus, under the proposed law, a terminally ill disabled individual would be eligible for expedited SSDI benefits according to the following schedule:

  • 50 percent of SSDI benefits in the first month after diagnosis.
  • 75 percent of SSDI benefits in the second month after diagnosis.
  • 100 percent of SSDI benefits in months three through 12 after diagnosis.

In order to ensure that expedited benefits would be made available only to individuals who are truly terminally ill, the legislation provides that that an applicant would be required to have his or her terminal illness diagnosed separately by two different doctors who practice in separate physician groups.

Benefits deducted in cases of long-term survival

While the bill is aimed at providing easy access to benefits for people who have only a few months to live, it also contains provisions that address what should be done in the event that an SSDI recipient survives substantially longer than anticipated after becoming eligible for expedited benefits.

In the event that a terminally ill individual lives for more than one year after becoming eligible for expedited SSDI benefits, the bill provides that his or her benefit payments during the second year would be prorated to offset the amount received during the initial five months. People who survive two or more years after diagnosis of a terminal illness would be eligible to receive SSDI benefits at 95 percent of the full amount.

Benefits may be available, even if you have already been denied

If you or a family member is unable to work due to an illness or injury, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits to help cover your living expenses, medical bills and other day-to-day costs. Even if your previous request for disability benefits has been denied, it does not necessarily mean that you are not eligible. For help applying for Social Security Disability benefits or to learn more about appealing a denied request for benefits, contact an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in your area.