Currently, there is a mandatory five-month waiting period for receiving Social Security Disability benefits for all prospective beneficiaries—even for those given 12 months or less to live.
The potential inequities of this requirement hit home, in particular, for Susan Young, a Long Island resident who had worked for decades a speech pathologist, paying into Social Security for over 30 years. In October, Young was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and told that she had only nine months left to live (despite not having been a smoker).
“I’m just sad and that’s how I describe it,” said Young. “I’m unbelievably sad. Superficial things in life don’t mean anything anymore, but the three people that really matter are my husband and my two children. I won’t see my children’s marriage. I won’t be a grandma. I’ll never get those opportunities.”
Once diagnosed, Young applied for Social Security Disability benefits, and was approved for $2,000 per month. The catch? She would have to wait five months to collect.
This restriction is intended to avoid disability fraud. But it struck Young as an injustice.
“I could’ve continued to collect a salary,” she explained. “I could’ve gone on sick time…I was committed enough to do what was right for the general public, then the thanks you get is that no one is going to look after you.”
So she contacted her Congressman, Representative (D, 3rd District) Steve Israel about her case.
“This rule which may make sense in some cases does not make sense in this case,” Congressman Israel said.
And, with claimants like Young in mind, Israel has announced legislation in Congress that would exempt the terminally ill from the waiting period. The bill is currently being drafted, and the Congressman will introduce it when Congress resumes its duties—after being on a break—at some point in the next few weeks.
Young stood at his side when he made the announcement.