Green resolution calls for Social Security reform for the terminally ill

LANSING, Mich.— A resolution was introduced recently in the Michigan Senate calling on Congress to provide expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for qualified individuals with a terminal illness.

“The resolution urges our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. to reform these programs by providing waivers to certain eligibility requirements for terminally ill patients who have fewer than six months to live,” said the sponsor of Senate Resolution 134, state Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville. “Current mandatory waiting periods in the SSDI program often last longer than a patient’s diagnosed life expectancy.  Additionally, many of these patients do not qualify for SSI, even if their illness has rendered them physically unable to work and drastically changed their financial situation.”

All workers in the U.S. pay into the Social Security system. While primarily a program to help older Americans in retirement, Social Security is also a fundamental element of our country's safety net through Social Security Disability Insurance. The federal government also provides additional help through the Supplementary Security Income program, which is paid for by general revenues and is not tied to work history.

While SSDI is aimed at helping people who are unable to work due to severe, permanent disabilities, benefits are delayed by a mandatory, five-month waiting period.  While there is no waiting period to receive SSI benefits, terminal illness does not qualify.  In cases when life expectancy is less than 6 months, the resolution calls for a waiver to the SSDI waiting period and inclusion in the SSI program as an eligible condition for low-income patients.  It also recommends proper procedures for review of each case and a requirement for a concurring diagnosis, both which are steps to prevent fraud and abuse.

“These programs were put in place to provide a helping hand during difficult times in one’s life.  Terminally ill patients in these cases don’t have the luxury of time and should be eligible for immediate assistance,” said Green. “The common sense changes we’re calling for will bring timely relief to folks when they need it most.”

The resolution was referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee.