Dealing with the Social Security Administration can be extremely time-consuming and frustrating. Herbert Russell found this out for himself after his daughter, Heather, was diagnosed with metastatic Stage IV cancer which eventually spread throughout her body in May of 2009. Heather wasn't ready to give up on life and continued to work at her local home improvement store until the following October, when her doctors told her it would be better for her to quit.
Not only did Heather and her father struggle against the diagnosis and ravages of the small cell cancer that invaded her body, but they also found themselves fighting with the Social Security Administration. Unbelievably, her initial application for Social Security Disability benefits was denied. She received a note back from the Social Security Administration advising her that she had incorrectly completed her paperwork. Heather revised the paperwork and resubmitted, but was then told that she made too much money to qualify for assistance.
It wasn't until November of 2009 that Heather was approved to receive SSDI benefits, but the problem was that she couldn't get those benefits until she had completed a mandatory five-month waiting period.
Unfortunately, Heather's cancer was metastasizing much quicker than the Social Security Administration's waiting period. The cancer quickly invaded her hormonal glands, pelvis, neck and brain. Sadly, Heather passed away in April of 2010, a mere few weeks before she was slated to receive her first Social Security Disability payment.
One Father's Crusade
Heather's father believes that the red tape surrounding many of the rules within the Social Security Administration is not only daunting, but also unreasonable. He's struggling to help other terminally ill patients with short life term illnesses to bypass the five-month waiting period for disability benefits.
Deputy Director of Regional Communications, Stephen Richardson, states that the five-month waiting period before benefits are received was designed to ensure that individuals diagnosed with long-term disabilities were not able to duplicate their benefits along with employee payment plans. That's all fine and good, but for the terminally ill, a five-month waiting period is often impossible.
Richardson states that the Social Security Administration doesn't have the power to change this policy. However, a new bill is in place in the House of Representatives, called the Social Security Fairness for the Terminally Ill Act of 2011, which is currently under review in the legislature. The deal strives to help the terminally ill and their loved ones increase their quality of life through a shortened wait time before Social Security Disability payments can begin.
Social Security Disability recipients should be aware that those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness are often classified as a "critical case" and claims undergo faster processing. In addition, individuals who have a diagnosis that falls under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances Listings may also benefit from expedited claim processing, receiving approval for benefits in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, even though those claims are processed faster, individuals are still required to undergo the five-month waiting period after approval before Social Security Disability benefits can be received.
One of Heather's dying wishes was that, eventually, legislation would make it easier for others to get the benefits they need when they need them. Hopefully her wish will come true.