One comment I hear from clients daily is “do we have an answer yet?” or “do we have a hearing date yet?”. Unfortunately, most often, my response is “no.” The Social Security Administration (SSA) is notorious for slowly approving or disapproving benefits, and many claimants suffer financial trouble throughout the process. Unfortunately, those who suffer from a select set of diseases and conditions who qualify for compassionate allowances (discussed in an earlier blog post), also wait lengthy periods of time before receiving their benefits.
This matter has recently come to national attention. A recent article on CBS Chicago found that there were 68,827 people approved under the Compassionate Allowance program in 2016. However, even despite that approval, they still waited at least six months to receive their check. Six months is a long time to someone who is suffering a debilitating disease and whose illness obviously meets Social Security’s definition of disability.
The article highlights several disability claimants who have applied for Social Security disability with cancer. One claimant, Laurie Mickelberg, receives weekly chemotherapy treatments that leave her weak and, ill, and entirely unable to work. Ms. Mickelberg notes that she has been working since she was fourteen years old and is currently forty-nine. Not being able to receive benefits has put Ms. Mickelberg at risk of losing her home instead of leaving it to her family as she had planned.
According to the Social Security Administration, ninety-one people approved for Compassionate Allowance benefits died before getting them; SSA could not provide the average wait time for those who live long enough to receive payment.
Ms. Mickelberg is hoping that the attention brought to this situation will push Congress to move and change the mandatory waiting period for Social Security Benefits for those who qualify for compassionate allowances. Legislation has been introduced by Rodney Davis, R-IL, to get rid of the waiting period, and it appears to have bipartisan support. If passed, it could take effect next year.