Senate bill would reduce delay in SSDI benefits for the terminally ill

Senator John Barrasso

Senator John Barrasso

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to eliminate the current five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for people who are terminally ill. The bill, S. 1311, was introduced by Wyoming Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both Republicans, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

Under the proposed law, benefits would be expedited for individuals who are “terminally ill,” which the bill defines as a medical prognosis of a life expectancy of six months or less. SSDI applicants who are terminally ill would begin receiving 50 percent of their expected benefits in the first month, 75 percent in the second month, and 100 percent for the remainder of the first year of benefits. Beginning with the second year, benefits would be slightly reduced to reflect the amount paid during what would have been the five-month waiting period.

The stated reason for the existing five-month waiting period is to prevent fraud. The new bill would prevent fraud by requiring that two physicians, who are not related and not part of the same practice, certify that the person is terminally ill.

The bill’s passage is the goal of Brian Moyer, a Wyoming man whose wife died in January 2012, 11 weeks after she was diagnosed with cancer. Although Tina Moyer had been approved for Social Security disability benefits of $754 per month, she did not receive them because she died during the five-month waiting period. She asked her husband to work to change the law so that other terminally ill people could receive the benefits they are entitled to.

S. 1311, known as the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013, was introduced on July 17 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.