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Bill Seeks to Remove Waiting Period for Terminally Ill SSD Applicants

The trauma of a terminal diagnosis is often compounded by the realization that one is no longer well enough to earn a living on his or her own. Although it is only a slight balm to an otherwise life-shattering situation, the federal government tries to alleviate some of this stress by providing Social Security disability benefits to Americans with life-threatening conditions.

Even though the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process is expedited for terminally ill applicants, they must still go through a five-month waiting period before they can start receiving benefits. The process can take even longer if the applicant does not enlist the help of a Minnesota Social Security disability lawyer.

Father Fighting for Change After Daughter's SSDI Benefits Delayed

For many, this five-month period is too long.

For example, a Maine woman, Heather Russell, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in May 2009. The disease eventually spread to her brain, neck, pelvis and adrenal gland. Ms. Russell hung on to her job at Home Depot for as long as she could, but, in October 2009, her doctors told her she had to stop working.

Ms. Russell had applied for Social Security disability benefits after her diagnosis, but her application was delayed because of problems with her paperwork. She was finally declared eligible about a month after she stopped working. However, her eligibility notice came with a catch - she needed to wait five months before she could receive her first check.

Ms. Russell died in April 2010, just weeks before she was supposed to receive her first benefits payment.

Now, Ms. Russell's father, Herbert Russell, is taking up a fight to have the waiting period waived for applicants with terminal diseases. He is just one of many who believe that a five-month delay is unfair when applied to a person who may not live to see the first check arrive.

Some Washington lawmakers agree with Mr. Russell. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced to waive the waiting period for applicants who have a life expectancy of six months or less. Unfortunately, this change will likely not happen soon - no action has been taken on the bill since it was referred to a subcommittee in January. A similar bill was introduced in 2009, but Congress failed to act on the legislation before its session ended.

A serious disability or terminal illness is stressful enough in its own right - no one should have to compound that stress by going through the SSD application process alone. If you or a loved one is considering applying for SSD benefits, contact an experienced Midwest disability attorney who can guide you through the process.

Source: Foster's Daily Democrat, "Father Fights Delay in Disability Payments: Terminally Ill Daughter Died Before Social Security Benefits Arrived," Danielle Curtis, Nov. 6, 2011.

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