Pillars of Justice

Lawmakers Consider Changes to Social Security Disability – Part I



There are two important bills pending before the United States Congress for disability recipients. Today’s post will cover the first of those two bills.

The Stop the Wait Act currently has sponsors in both the House and the Senate. This bill would eliminate the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits immediately and gradually phase out the additional 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage for SSDI beneficiaries. Many people are not aware of these waiting periods that currently affect those on disability. Here is an example of how unfair these two waiting periods can be.

Jane Doe has no health insurance is diagnosed with stage IV non-alcoholic liver disease. She has severe symptoms and is unable to work, spending a lot of time in and out of the hospital. She has no income. Ms. Doe has also started to have serious kidney complications and needs immediate and extensive medical treatment. She cannot afford the treatment she needs. She applies for and is granted disability benefits within a few months. Here is how these waiting periods will affect her.

Assume Ms. Doe applied January 15, 2019 for benefits, and was granted benefits in March 2019. With that decision, the Social Security Administration found her to be disabled as of her application: January 15, 2019. Even though Ms. Doe cannot work and is disabled, she will not begin receiving monthly disability payments until July 2019. That is due to the current five-month waiting period on benefits.

More seriously for her, there is an additional 24-month waiting period before she can receive Medicare benefits. The 24 months are counted beginning the month that benefits are paid. So, in this case, Ms. Doe cannot start receiving Medicare until July 2021. What is she supposed to do?

This lengthy waiting period can profoundly impact whether someone like Ms. Doe will even recover from her illness. To find someone medically disabled and unable to work, and then deny that person health insurance for two years makes no sense. The Stop the Wait Act would fix this problem.