When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, be prepared to wait. If the Social Security Administration agrees that you are unable to maintain gainful employment due to your impairment, your benefits will not start until 5 months after SSA agreed that your disability began (this is known as the “elimination period,” and applies for SSDI cases only, not SSI claims). In addition, disability beneficiaries are also eligible for Medicare health insurance coverage, but only after waiting two years from when they start receiving disability benefits!

These waiting periods are particularly perilous for individuals with conditions like cancer, cystic fibrosis, dementia, and other diseases that progress rapidly. In 2017, more than 10,000 Americans died while waiting for their Social Security disability benefits to kick in.

A group of Washington lawmakers want to fix this. The “Stop the Wait Act” was introduced in Congress last September. If enacted into law, this legislation would eliminate the mandated waiting periods for benefits and Medicare coverage, which damage the health of the disabled by delaying critical health care.

One of the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said in press release: “Workers who have paid into the Social Security Disability Insurance fund should not be denied their benefits at the time they need them most. 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.”

The “Stop the Wait Act” is endorsed by numerous patient advocacy groups and the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), which wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “During this time of economic crisis, the ‘Stop the Wait Act’ would provide an economic stimulus to the American economy and many of our most vulnerable citizens. This legislation would end the five-month waiting period that SSDI beneficiaries must endure after they have been determined eligible for their earned SSDI benefits. By ending this unnecessary delay, you will help ensure that these disabled Americans are housing and food secure while simultaneously stimulating the economy.”

We urge you to contact your members of Congress and ask them to support the “Stop the Wait Act.” Your voice can have an impact. A partial victory on stopping the wait was won by individuals advocating for those who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In December, Congress enacted a law eliminating the waiting period for ALS patients. Now we need to extend this compassionate benefit to all disabled Americans.

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