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As of October 2016, there is a mandatory waiting period for Social Security disability benefits, even if you are terminally ill.

What This Meant for One Family

In the spring of 2009, Heather Russell was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Within months, the disease had metastasized throughout her body, and it became evident that she would not survive the illness. Her first two attempts to secure Social Security disability benefits failed—first because of incomplete paperwork and then because she earned too much working at a job in retail. Finally, too sick to continue work, she was approved for Social Security disability benefits in November 2009.

Sadly, though, Russell was still forced to wait five months from that date to receive benefits due to a mandatory waiting period for the terminally ill. She died one month short of getting her benefits.

After his daughter died of cancer while still waiting for Social Security disability benefits, Heather’s father fought for a new rule that would grant terminally-ill applicants faster support from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

He supported the Social Security Fairness for the Terminally Ill Act of 2011. However, that bill never made it out of the House and was never enacted into law.

Another Try: The Social Security Disability Fairness Act of 2016

As of October 2016, the Social Security Disability Fairness Act of 2016 was still pending before Congress. The bill was introduced by Rodney Davis (R) of Illinois and Ron Kind (D) of Wisconsin specifically to eliminate the Social Security disability wait time for terminally ill applicants. The bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

If you or a loved one has a terminal illness and is seeking Social Security disability benefits, there are several steps you can take to expedite the process. Talk to an experienced disability benefits attorney today to find out more. Simply start a live chat with us now or call us directly at 800-800-6353.

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Morgan Weisbrod  LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan Weisbrod , Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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