Green resolution spurs social security reform legislation for terminally ill

A resolution sponsored by state Sen. Mike Green and passed by the Michigan Senate last legislative session has helped to prompt the introduction of federal legislation reforming Social Security disability programs to more quickly provide benefits to terminally ill patients. 

“We have cases where people who paid into social security their entire working careers are being denied access to these benefits in their greatest time of need due to bureaucratic red tape,” said Green, R-Mayville. “My resolution called for reforms to these programs to provide them a helping hand.”

Green’s resolution, Senate Resolution 134, was sparked by the case of Brian and Tina Moyer, who used to live in Michigan.

Tina Moyer was diagnosed with cancer in November 2011. Because of the advanced stage of her cancer and the aggressive nature of her treatment, Tina was no longer able to work, impacting her and her husband’s ability to cover the cost of medical care and other bills. While she qualified for certain Social Security benefits, she could not collect them because of a five month waiting period. Tina passed away on Jan. 23, 2012, just 11 weeks after her diagnosis and long before the waiting period ended.

Tina would have received a monthly benefit of $754. Despite having paid federal income and social security taxes all her life, husband Brian received a Social Security lump sum death payment of only $255.

On her death bed, Tina Moyer asked her husband to work to change federal law so that terminally ill patients after her could bypass the five-month rule. Moyer agreed because he believes it’s the right thing to do.

“Many others, like us, paid into Social Security all their working lives. You find out real quick how expensive treatment is and how scarce your money becomes when you or your spouse are facing a terminal illness and unable to work, even with health insurance. Terminally ill people often need the benefits more than at any other point in their lives and the system tells them no,” Moyers explained.

He calls his efforts to secure the changes asked for by his wife “The Good Fight.”

“I took Sen. Green’s resolution after it passed and used it like a sledgehammer to get people’s attention around the country,” said Brian Moyer, a former resident of Green’s district who now resides in Wyoming. “I sent copies to the media, to state legislators across the nation and to members of Congress. It has helped open doors and eyes.”

Last week Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013. The bill would decrease the waiting period for people who are terminally ill.

The bill states that two physicians who do not work in the same practice must diagnose a qualifying patient as terminally ill with less than six months life expectancy. Benefits would be phased in. During the first month, the patient would receive 50 percent of the monthly benefit. During the second month, the patient would receive 75 percent of the benefit. During months three and beyond, the individual would receive100 percent of the monthly benefits. After the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.


Wetlands reform signed into law

Legislation that will continue Michigan’s legacy of guarding its natural resources while encouraging responsible economic and agricultural development has been signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, said sponsor state Sen. Mike Green.

“The reforms in Public Act 98 of 2013 will guarantee that Michigan continues to be one of only two states in the nation that operates its own wetlands regulation program independent of the federal Environmental Protection Agency,” said Green, R-Mayville. “As a state, we have been doing this since 1984. The reforms bring Michigan in line with requirements of the federal Clean Water Act while preserving the efficiency, responsiveness and pro-jobs approach that only local control can offer.”

Under federal law, the EPA is responsible for regulating activities impacting air and water quality, including wetlands, but Michigan received a waiver in 1984 to operate its own program as long as it complied with CWA requirements. New Jersey is the only other state to also receive such a waiver. In 2008, the EPA issued a determination that Michigan’s program violated federal law in several areas and ordered the state to be in compliance. Failure to do so wouldhave resulted in federal regulators based in Chicago assuming control.

“The average time it takes for someone to receive a wetlands-related permit from the state DEQ is 21 days. The national average from the EPA for other states is over 9 months,” commented Green. “The need for the bill is obvious. If Michigan were to lose its independence on wetlands, the consequences and costs for Michigan job creators, farmers, local government and property owners would be devastating and could derail our state’s economic comeback, while doing nothing more to protect our natural resources.”

Green emphasized that the bill achieves a responsible balance among the needs to protect wetlands, property rights and lawful commerce. House Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, who also worked on the reforms for nearly two years, agreed.

“One of my top priorities since I took office was to make these changes to Michigan’s wetlands program, and I am pleased that Sen. Green’s bill has accomplished that goal,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “PA 98 makes the wetlands program more effective and efficient and protects property owners’ rights, and I am happy that it is now law.

“The legislators from the Great Lakes Bay Region came together to accomplish this, and I appreciate the bipartisan support that has gone into these updates to our wetlands statutes. They were a long time coming.”

According to the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), the reforms being signed into law were important for Michigan agriculture, the second-largest industry in the state.

“Michigan farmers had a lot at stake with this bill,” said Matt Smego, legislative counsel for the MFB, in applauding the bill becoming law. In particular, Smego pointed out that state autonomy was especially important to a lot of farmers.

The legislation was crafted over years of negotiations involving stakeholders from every facet of the issue. In the end, the bill was supported by the Michigan and Detroit Chambers of Commerce, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners, major utilities, homebuilders, realtors and County Road Association of Michigan.