May 4, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to expedite the payment of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to individuals with terminal illnesses by eliminating the five-month waiting period.
“The last thing Americans facing end-of-life decisions should be concerned with is navigating Washington red tape,” said Senator Barrasso. “We need to make sure Americans and their loved ones facing significant hardships get help when they need it the most. Our bipartisan bill will ensure people with terminal illnesses receive disability benefits in a timely manner while still preserving the integrity of the system.”
“When Americans face terminal illness, they should be able to focus on their health instead of how they’ll pay the bills,” said Senator Brown. “Social Security Disability Insurance is a lifeline for individuals who can’t work because they are too sick. This bill would ensure that terminally ill patients can spend their final months without the added worry of knowing if or when they’ll receive benefits.”
In addition to Barrasso and Brown, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Jack Reed (D-RI).
The Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act expedites the payment of SSDI benefits to individuals who are unlikely to live long enough to receive any benefits under the current five-month waiting period. Under the legislation, eligible individuals begin receiving benefits in the first month. The breakdown of the benefit payments is as follows:
- First month: 50 percent of monthly benefits.
- Second month: 75 percent of monthly benefits.
- Third-twelfth months: 100 percent of monthly benefits.
- Year Two: The benefit amount for each month is the regular monthly benefit minus a pro-rata share of the total amount of benefits paid during what would otherwise be the five-month waiting period.
- Year Three and beyond: The benefit amount for each month is 95 percent of the regular benefit.
How to Qualify for Expedited Payments:
The bill eliminates the five-month waiting period for any person deemed terminally ill. Terminally ill is defined as a medical prognosis of six months or less in life expectancy. To prevent fraud and abuse, at least two physicians, who are unrelated and not in the same physician group practice, must certify the individual is terminally ill.
The bill requires an annual report from the commissioner and the inspector general of the Social Security Administration on the number of people applying for and receiving the expedited SSDI benefits, as well as the costs of administering it. After four years, the bill requires a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluating the changes to the SSDI program and providing recommendations on ways to improve upon it. The bill sunsets these benefit changes after five years on January 1, 2028, giving Congress time to review and potentially reauthorize these changes to the program.