AARP Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Joyce Rogers, sent a letter to Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso today in support of the legislation, S.1311 – Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013.
The legislation provides a streamlined process for individuals who are terminally ill to receive Social Security payments before it is too late.
“AARP shares your belief that beneficiaries and applicants should be afforded all the rights to which they are entitled. Eligibility determinations and continuing disability reviews should be made in a fair, consistent, and timely manner,” Rogers wrote. “Unfortunately, current disability law and the resources devoted to administering it do not allow for earned benefits to be provided to the terminally ill in a timely way. Today, too many die before receipt of any disability benefit.”
“The Social Security disability insurance program doesn’t recognize the hardships that terminally ill individuals may face during the current five-month waiting period for benefits,” Enzi said. “Our bill would provide a solution for people facing these difficult circumstances while helping prevent possible fraud and abuse.”
“When Americans are facing end of life decisions, Washington’s red tape should be the last thing on their minds,” Barrasso said. “Our bill strikes an important balance between helping people with terminal illnesses receive their benefits and ensuring the integrity of the system. This will make sure Americans facing significant hardships receive help when they need it the most.”
Since fiscal year 2007, initial disability claim receipts have increased by nearly 30 percent. In fiscal year 2011, the Social Security Administration received nearly 3.3 million in initial disability applications, over 30,000 more than the administration received in the prior year.
Moreover, in the first quarter of fiscal year 2013, the SSA saw an increase in hearing-level processing times from an average 353 days in the previous fiscal year to 361 days. The administration also saw an increase in claims pending at the hearing level, up to 831,304 pending hearings in the first quarter, compared to 823,191 pending hearings at fiscal year-end 2012.
“Thousands upon thousands of claimants currently wait months for an initial determination and another year and a half for a decision at the next level of review,” Rogers wrote. “Because of these delays, many terminally ill, disabled workers face an unnecessarily long wait for their claims to be processed. In the vast majority of cases involving the terminally ill, Social Security Administration determinations can be relatively straightforward and should be processed much faster.”