Brown Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expedite Social Security Benefits For Terminally Ill

Bill Would Expedite Payments by Eliminating Five-Month Waiting Period

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to expedite the payment of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to individuals with terminal illnesses by eliminating the current five-month waiting period.

The Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act expedites the payment of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to individuals who will not live long enough to receive any benefits under the five-month waiting period in existing law. Under the legislation, eligible individuals would begin receiving benefits in the first month.

“When Americans face terminal illness, they should be able to focus on their health instead of how they’ll pay the bills,” said 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.”

The breakdown of the benefit payments is provided below:

• 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 diagnosed to be terminally ill. “Terminally ill” is defined as a person that has a medical prognosis that his or her life expectancy is six months or less. To prevent fraud and abuse, at least two physicians, who are unrelated and not in the same physician group practice, must certify that the individual is terminally ill.

Additional Requirements:

The bill requires a yearly 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 will sunset after five years, on January 1, 2025.

In addition to  Brown and Barrasso, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Jack Reed (D-RI).