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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lawmakers Consider Expediting SSDI for People with ALS

Why is there a 5-month waiting period to receive SSDI?

While individuals with disabilities are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, there are a number of waiting periods associated with the claims process. First, there is a waiting period  from the application date until receipt of the first disability check. In light of the fact that most initial claims are denied and subjected to a series of reviews, this waiting period is often quite long.

Once an application has been approved, however, there is another five-month waiting period, and the SSA does not pay benefits during this time. Now, Congressional lawmakers are considering legislation that would waive this waiting period for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The legislation, The ALS Disability Insurance Access Act,  was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter King (R-NY). The bill also has the support of the ALS Association.

“Those battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease shouldn’t have to wait to get benefits they’ve earned, especially given the unique challenges the disease poses for patients and their families,” Barb Newhouse, the Association's president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.

Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The disease rapidly progresses and robs those afflicted of the ability to walk, talk, and breathe on their own, ultimately leading to death within two to five years of diagnosis. There is no known cause or cure, and veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. Currently, there is only one approved treatment that only modestly extends life.

“Given the prognosis for those diagnosed with ALS, it defies common sense and decency to require these same individuals to wait for benefits they have paid for and most importantly deserve,” Rep. King said.

This is not the first time Congress has acted to address the needs of individuals suffering with ALS. In 2000, the 24-month Medicare waiting period for ALS patients was waived. In addition the Social Security Administration has an expedited review process for SSDI and SSI applicants afflicted with ALS.

Nonetheless, the five-month waiting period causes under hardship for these individuals and their loved ones. The waiting period is intended to provide time for temporary conditions to reverse, however, ALS is irreversible. While the legislation has bi-partisan support, it is unclear if the measure will be passed in the next session of Congress.

In the meantime, those afflicted with ALS, or any other medical condition that renders them unable to work, should engage the services of an experienced social security disability attorney to obtain the benefits they deserve.


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