Congress Takes Aim at Five Month Waiting Period

Of the many arcane rules in Social Security that confuse claimants, perhaps none is more frustrating than the five month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

If you're unfamiliar with the rule, it works like this: Let's say you apply for disability benefits with an onset date of January 1, 2019 and are approved. Your disability insurance benefits are only paid out from June 1, 2019 onward. For five months, Social Security agrees you're disabled, but will not pay you anything.

Even more confusing, while SSDI recipients are also eligible for Medicare benefits, they have to wait for two years before that benefit kicks in.

There's really no reason for the delay, and now bipartisan legislation hopes to eliminate it entirely.

In September, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), with Rep.Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), introduced the "Stop the Wait Act," which would require that benefits are paid from the date an individual is found disabled, and begin phasing out the 24 month waiting period for Medicare.

"Workers who have paid into the Social Security Disability Insurance fund should not be denied their benefits at the time they need them most," Senator Casey said in a press release. "For many individuals living with disabilities, these waiting periods can be deadly. We must eliminate this barrier to accessing necessary and often life-saving supports and ensure timely, equitable access to health care."

While a number of groups advocating for the disabled and expanded health coverage have endorsed the bill, including the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, it remains in committee, and its future is unclear.

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