Harlan Still & Koch

Mandatory wait on SSD benefits when you're dying lacks compassion

Many might argue the point, but the government is not without heart. As we noted in a post just last month, it is possible to obtain an expedited determination of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. If an applicant in Missouri has a diagnosis for any one of about 225 illnesses identified as obviously being disabling, they may be able to be approved for benefits in weeks, rather than the months or even years it normally takes.

Many different kinds of cancer are included on the list of diseases considered to be obviously disabling. On the face of it, that just seems sensible. If you are suffer from an advanced stage of nearly any form of cancer, you want to be focused on conquering the illness. The required treatments are expensive. Insurance might only go so far. You can't work, so being able to tap into any available financial resource is a way to maintain hope.

The government's ability to show heart in these situations is limited by the law, unfortunately. While the Compassionate Allowance Initiative speeds up the processing of claims, it does not speed up the issuing of checks. As with all SSDI claims, benefits do not begin to flow until the claimant reaches the sixth full month of disability. If you have a late stage cancer, you could be dead before the funds you've been approved for start. In the meantime, if mortgage payments fall behind, the house might be lost.

Those with experience in the law know that laws can change, and there is an effort underway in Congress to do just that where obvious disability exists. The Social Security Fairness Act of 2017 seeks to adjust what the bill's chief sponsor calls "a backward process" reflecting a slow Washington bureaucracy.

Right now, the measure is with the House Ways and Means committee. Will it go anywhere from there?

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