A senior sitting on wheelchair, terminal illnessIn a bi-partisan effort to help Americans with terminal illnesses, Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Ron Kind (D-WI) recently presented the Social Security Disability Fairness Act to the House. The bill reforms SSDI payment procedures in several ways.

The Bill

Under current law, an applicant must wait five months before SSDI benefits begin to pay, even with the assistance of a Social Security attorney in Chicago. The waiting period was designed to limit fraud and give the government an opportunity to verify claims. The system created many problems, especially for people with only months to live. Their families often went into considerable debt to pay everyday living expenses while the applicant waited for their benefits to begin.

The proposed changes would remove the waiting period for people who have terminal illnesses, paying benefits from the date of approval. HR 5347 also establishes government oversight of the program, with conditions to reevaluate the success of the new procedures within four years. The Government Accountability Office will be required to track the number of beneficiaries who die within a year of receiving benefits, as well as instances of fraud and abuse.

Qualifications

In order to qualify for expedited payments, an individual must meet several criteria:

  • Be eligible for SSDI benefits
  • Suffer from a terminal illness, defined under the law as an illness with a prognosis of less than six months to live
  • Verification of the diagnosis by two different physicians
  • Physicians cannot be related, or work in the same group care or hospital system

Applicants who meet the criteria can work with a Social Security attorney in Chicago to secure SSDI payments immediately.

Prospects

A combination of factors make passage of HR 5347 a possibility, according to a Social Security attorney in Chicago. First, the bill has bi-partisan support at a time when Congressional gridlock has made passing partisan legislation difficult. Second, in an election year, members of Congress are likely to support a bill with as much popular support as HR 5347 has generated. Finally, the bill is closely related to a bill to remove waiting periods for people with ALS, and that bill has support from high ranking leaders of both parties.

Social Security reform will remain a constant struggle in the United States, but the introduction of legislation like HR 5347 offers hope for the expansion of the program to people who need the most help.