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Senate bill impacts disability benefits, terminal illnesses

According to Social Security Administration policy, anyone who is in need of support for a serious injury or illness is required to wait five months before receiving disability benefits. Depending on a person's condition and his or her financial situation, the payments simply may not be delivered soon enough. Unfortunately, this might be the experience for a number of Maryland residents living with a terminal illness.

Recently, however, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill that would reduce the amount of time it takes to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits for terminal illnesses. Currently, the Social Security Administration enforces a five-month waiting period to prevent fraud, which unnecessarily harms certain applicants.

Although there have been similar bills in the past, none have passed. This time around the effort was started by one man who is trying to respect his late wife's final request. Only 11 weeks after the man's wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she passed away. Even though she was given approval to receive benefits, she passed away before the mandatory five-month period ended, so she wanted him to do something about this issue. The man doesn't live in Maryland, but his efforts would have a national impact if they're successful.

Even without considering the SSA's waiting period for benefit administration, the process to receive disability benefits can be difficult. For families that are simply looking for financial relief because a loved one is unable to work, action may need to be taken quickly.

Although it's uncertain whether the bill will succeed this year, the hope is that something is done to make sure terminally ill people receive support in a way that fits their needs.

Source: Star-Tribune, "Wyoming man's fight for the terminally ill goes to Washington," Laura Hancock, July 19, 2013

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