This past September, two important bills were introduced in Congress that affect Social Security Disability Benefits. We encourage you to contact your congressman and senator to express support for these bills as they assist a vulnerable population in our society.

The first bill, the Stop the Wait Act, would eliminate the five month waiting period for people to receive their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This bill would also reduce the two year waiting period to be covered under Medicare, though that change would be more gradual. This law will provide crucial support to those who become disabled and are no longer able to work by removing an arbitrary five month waiting period.

I have personally worked with many people who have been caused extreme financial hardship due to the illogical five month waiting period. For example, this past week I met with a woman who was just diagnosed with end stage liver failure. Following doctors orders she has resigned from her job to pursue the intense treatment. I had to break the sad news to her that while SSA will likely approve her case right away, she will still have to wait more than five months before she receives any money. Therefore, on top of dealing with a medical condition that is likely terminal, she now has to also wrestle with the fact that she will likely be evicted before she receives any of her social security disability benefits. When we pay our Social Security taxes we are buying our Social Security Disability Insurance. There’s no reason to force people to arbitrarily wait five months to receive what they have paid for.

The second bill is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act would update the eligibility criteria for SSI benefits. Some of this criteria has not been updated since 1972. The major changes to the criteria is increasing the resource limit from $2,000 to $10,000 for an individual and from $3,000 to $20,000 for a married couple. The bill also aims to eliminate the marriage penalty, increase the general income exclusion from $20/month to $123/month and increase the earned income exclusion from $65/month to $399/month.

The Stop the Wait Act and the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would help many individuals and families. These acts will provide the most assistance to the most vulnerable segments of our society, those who are poor and disabled. These bills would apply those already receiving benefits as well as those who are in the process of applying for benefits. Currently, the bills have not yet been passed in Congress and support is needed for the bills. Please contact your senators and representatives to encourage them to support the bills. Thank those who have already supported the bills and don’t be afraid to share your stories and how these bills can help you and your family.