If you’ve spent time reading about Social Security Disability benefits, you have likely heard that there is a five-month waiting period from the point that you are found disabled before you can receive any benefits. This means, regardless of how long you fight to have your benefits approved, the first five months that you were disabled, you will never receive any SSDI benefits.
Historically, this waiting period was put in place to ensure that Social Security was only awarding benefits to individuals with long-term disabilities and comes from a time where the processing time for disability claims was much faster. In 2022 the time that it takes for Social Security and Disability Determination Services to process your application will likely run anywhere from four months to a year or more on the initial application. And that’s before you even start through the appeal process.
Those approved in four months or less are generally individuals with terminal illnesses or conditions that meet the requirements for Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances. A five-month holding period does not make sense for these individuals and often denies those in the last months of their lives from receiving the necessary financial support that they deserve.
Congress recently recognized this issue by eliminating the waiting period for those who have been diagnosed with ALS (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/08/27/2021-18435/removing-the-waiting-period-for-entitlement-to-social-security-disability-insurance-benefits-for). At a minimum, other terminal conditions and those with diagnoses on the Compassionate Allowance list should receive a similar benefit.
For the majority of people filing for disability benefits, the wait for a decision on their benefits is long. The overwhelming majority of those filing are well beyond the five month mark before their claim is approved. So, why continue with the old rule that doesn’t allow those approved for Social Security Disability benefits to receive any money for the first five full months after they are found disabled? For those who are approved those first five months have devastating financial consequences and regularly result in the loss of life savings, the loss of their home and of anything of value that these individuals have earned over their lifetime.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Tx) has recently proposed legislation to put an end to the wait, which has been termed the “Stop the Wait Act of 2022”. You can read the text of the bill here (https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/6583/text). Between 2022 (or the date the legislation is enacted) and 2026 the wait will be gradually reduced from five months, to three months, two months and then one month, before being eliminated entirely for claims filed in 2027. The bill was introduced February 3, 2022. This is a long overdue change that will benefit millions of Americans.