Harshbarger, Sen. Mike Lee re-introduce Immediate Access for the Terminally Ill Act

Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn. and U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, re-introduced the Immediate Access for the Terminally Ill Act, which would remove the burdensome waiting period for terminally ill patients’ access to their Social Security Disability Insurance program benefits.

Americans who are unable to work due to a terminal illness qualify for SSDI, providing them with a monthly cash benefit. However, despite past reforms, most patients are required to undergo a five-month waiting period before receiving their benefit - even if they are expected to pass away within that time, resulting in some Americans receiving no benefits at all prior to their passing.

This critical legislation would eliminate this wearisome waiting period, allowing those suffering from terminal illnesses immediate access to their SSDI benefits, and do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

“A constituent contacted my office who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and faced a challenge in obtaining their entitled benefits. Vulnerable Americans with grave medical conditions should not be shouldering the burden of Washington bureaucracy when navigating end-of-life decisions,” said Harshbarger. “It is crucial to ensure prompt access to benefits for those enduring significant hardships, and I am proud to join Senator Mike Lee in introducing this vital legislation. I hope that East Tennesseans will continue to share with me the federal benefit claims challenges they face, so my experienced caseworkers may attempt to resolve their issue.

“I will continue to use my medical background as a pharmacist for more than 30 years to identify legislative solutions, such as the bill I re-introduced today.”

“Social Security Disability Insurance provides a financial safety net for disabled workers but requires a five-month waiting period prior to receipt of benefits,” said Lee. “Unfortunately, for some Americans who suffer from illnesses that are clearly disabling long-term, have short life expectancies, and have no known cure, five months is simply too long. If passed, my bill could put SSDI benefits into patients’ hands sooner, relieving some of the stress associated with end-of life care.”

The legislation has strong support amongst patient advocacy groups, including the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives and Patients Rising.

“We applaud Senator Lee and Representative Harshbarger for their leadership on this important legislation,” said David Camp, interim Chief Executive Officer of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). “NOSSCR supports all efforts to eliminate or limit the 5-month exclusion period, but this is especially critical for the most vulnerable Americans who suffer from fatal diseases with no known cure and short life expectancies.

“Because many Social Security claimants die, lose savings or homes, and suffer as they wait for 5 months for their earned disability benefits.”

“The role of health insurance and our social safety net programs are to shield patients from major financial hardship when serious illness strikes. For patients facing terminal illness, the current five-month waiting period in the Social Security Disability Insurance program is unethical and inhumane,” said Terry Wilcox, Co-Founder and CEO of Patients Rising. “The Immediate Access for the Terminally Ill Act will offer patients and their families important financial support and dignity during a devastating moment.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://harshbarger.house.gov/media/in-the-news/harshbarger-sen-mike-lee-re-introduce-immediate-access-terminally-ill-act