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Six-month waiting period for SSD benefits proving fatal for some

The Social Security Administration's "Compassionate Allowances" program is meant to expedite the approval process for those in Newark and nationwide who meet the requirements to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, the a six-month waiting period between the time the applicant is awarded benefits and the time the applicant receives benefits is proving to be fatal for some.

For example, one 49 year old woman has stage four ovarian cancer. Due to her illness, she cannot work and is now in danger of losing her home, which she wanted to pass on to her loved ones after her death. The woman was approved to receive $1,900 in SSD benefits back in February, but will not actually start collecting these benefits until July. This is despite the fact that the woman was employed from the time she was age 14 until she was age 49, paying into the Social Security system the entire time. She believes she will die before ever receiving the benefits she is entitled to.

The Compassionate Allowances program maintains a list of 225 illnesses. If an applicant has one of these illnesses, their application for benefits will be expedited. However, even after they are approved for benefits, applicants must wait six months before they begin receiving benefits. The Social Security Administration maintains that in 2016, 91 individuals who were approved for SSD benefits through the Compassionate Allowance program passed away during the six-month waiting period. 68,000 individuals were approved for SSD benefits under the Compassionate Allowances program in 2016, but had to go through the six-month waiting period before receiving benefits.

This may seem unfair, especially since people with fatal illnesses may only have a short time to live. In fact, legislation is being introduced in Congress that would eliminate the six-month waiting period. According to a representative from Illinois the process seems "backwards," since applicants for SSD benefits have their conditions verified by two separate physicians. The bill being introduced apparently has bipartisan support, and may be introduced later in 2016. If passed it could become effective in 2017.

While it remains to be seen how this legislation will progress, that doesn't change the fact that those with serious or fatal illnesses are in need of financial benefits as soon as possible. Therefore, those considering applying for SSD benefits should not put off doing so, as they will not immediately receive benefits, even after being approved.

Source: CBS Pittsburgh, "Cancer Patients Forced To Wait Months For Compassionate Allowance Benefits," April 5, 2017

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