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The “Stop the Wait Act” blog header image

The “Stop the Wait Act”

The “Stop the Wait Act” is a bill that aims to end the 5 month waiting period for SSDI benefits, and phase out the 24 month waiting period for Medicare.

SSDI Waiting Period

The purpose of Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits are to financially assist workers who are unable to support themselves due to a disability.

In order to qualify for SSDI, you must earn less than $1,350 per month. In addition to this, you must be unable to work because of your impairments. These qualifications are in place to assure that benefits go to those who are truly in need of financial assistance. However, what many do not realize while applying for SSDI is that if you are approved for benefits you will not receive your payments immediately.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a five month waiting period before they begin sending SSDI payments. The SSA requires the waiting period to be five full months. Meaning, if you were approved for SSDI on January 10th, your first full month of waiting would begin in February. Your date of entitlement, the day you can receive benefits, would be in July.

The purpose of this waiting period is so the SSA can ensure that SSDI applicants have a long term disability before they begin paying them. This waiting period can have detrimental effects on applicants, who are unable to work and earn money due to their impairments. To address this issue, the “Stop the Wait Act” has been introduced.

Why the Stop the Wait Act Should Pass

The “Stop the Wait Act” is a bill to amend Title II of the Social Security Act. It was introduced by Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) to Congress in 2019 as H.R. 4386. The purpose of the bill is to end the five month waiting period for SSDI benefits, and to eventually end the two year wait for Medicare. There are many reasons why this bill should pass, we have highlighted only a few:

The wait period is detrimental to those with rapidly progressing diseases.

For many, the bill is long overdue, and in some cases too late. A 2019 study found that in 2017, 10,000 Americans died while waiting for their SSDI benefits to begin. Those with rapidly progressing diseases, such as cancer, or cystic fibrosis, suffer greatly from the required wait period.

For those who have to appeal, the five month period only makes the wait time longer. 

The five month waiting period is also not the only waiting most SSDI claimants must do. Nearly 70% of initial applications for disability benefits are denied. This means most applicants must begin the appeals process

The first step of the appeals process is Reconsideration. At this level you can expect to wait about three to six months for a decision. There is a 15% chance of winning benefits. If you are denied at this step you move on to a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At this level of appeals, around 60% of claimants win their benefits. However, it can take over a year to get a decision. 

Add this wait time to the mandatory five months wait and now SSDI claimants are waiting over a year and a half for their benefits to begin. During this time period, disabled individuals are often forced to exhaust their savings in order to maintain their basic necessities. It is not uncommon for SSDI claimants to face bankruptcy, lose their homes, or suffer with any other form of financial crisis. 

A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that about 48,000 individuals, or 1.3% of applicants, filed for bankruptcy while awaiting a final decision about their disability appeals from 2014 through 2019.

With the wait period, the SSA is withholding benefits that claimants have earned and deserve.

In order to qualify for SSDI you must have worked, at least, five out of the last ten years. Social Security requires that you have paid into FICA taxes, which fund SSDI, to receive benefits. By withholding payments for five months, the SSA is preventing disabled Americans from receiving benefits that they have worked for and earned. 

Claimants do not have access to health care coverage for an additional two full years. 

Along with the five month waiting period for their benefits to begin, SSDI claimants must also wait for health care. After two full years of receiving disability benefits, claimants are able to receive Medicare. 

What the Stop the Wait Act Promises to Amend

-The bill will require that the SSA begins payment to an individual eligible for SSDI immediately after they are determined to be eligible for the program, instead of requiring a five month waiting period.

-The bill will phase out the two year waiting period for Medicare disability benefits.

The National Academy of Medicine is also being directed to conduct a study to ensure that the elimination of these waiting periods will result in better health and community living outcomes for SSDI recipients.

Where is the Stop the Wait Act now?

The bill now has the support of disability groups behind it, as well as other state representatives. A release from Representative Doggett (D-TX) states that the bill as backing from many disability advocacy groups, such as: American Association of People with Disabilities, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Social Security Works, National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR), National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR), Paralyzed Veterans of America, Stop the Wait Coalition, and American Association on Health and Disability. 

Over the next few months Congress will be hearing testimonials from those who are impacted by the waiting periods. 

Looking for SSDI Assistance?

Victory Disability is a nationwide law firm. We specialize in helping disabled workers get the benefits that they have earned and deserve. To see if we can assist you, take our free evaluation by clicking here.