Apr 10, 2017

Why So Brutal?

     A patient dying of cancer is told her Social Security disability claim has been approved but she's also told that she must wait six months before she'll be paid a monthly check. The patient thinks that's crazy. Why would the Social Security Administration behave in such a brutal way? Because they have to. It's the way the law is written. Anybody want to justify this as reasonable? Anybody want to make an argument about discouraging dependency? What about "ENTITLEMENTS ARE DRIVING US BANKRUPT?" I put that last one all in caps since that's usually the tone of anyone making the "argument" even though the same people always favor humongous increases in defense spending.
     And if you think that six month waiting period is terrible, what do you think of the two and a half year waiting period for Medicare?


Anonymous said...

I have never understood the point of the 5 month waiting period, other than a blatant money-savings mechanism by Social Security. It especially makes no sense when there is no such waiting period for SSI. You'd think it would be the other way around because, at least, DIB is an earned benefit.

Tim Kennedy said...

The waiting period for DIB has been in place since Congress instituted benefit payments in 1956. The waiting period was a common practice among private insurance companies and in part the DIB waiting period was modeled after these. Also, the Social Security Advisory Council in 1948 suggested "There should be a 6-month waiting period before benefits were payable, to ensure that the disability was permanent and total." At the time there was political resistance to creating a disability program with payments beyond an earnings freeze. Private insurers had lost money in disability plans begun after World War I and it was believed that the payment of DIB would not be sustainable.

SSA.gov has an article on the history of this policy:https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v66n3/v66n3p1.html

Anonymous said...

And the definitions were far stricter in 1956 than they are now. 61 years later the program has ended up in a place that wasn't even imagined 6 decades ago. Back then there was an age requirement, imagine the outcry if that was resurrected and you could only be disabled if you were between the ages of 50 to 65! Or imagine the outrage rolling back the 1965 amendments or the 1967 definition of disability!!!!

What exactly do you want the program to do? How do you want it to operate? What is the intent of the program in the light of 2017?

Anonymous said...

She should request an emergency release of her benefits on the basis that funds are needed to keep her from becoming homeless. I'm not sure if it varies by local office, but our local office is authorized to release up to $2000 if the person is facing an emergency.

I do know the rules differ between DIB and SSI, but I believe both programs have some ability to receive an emergency advance of funds if facing homelessness or for medical treatment.

Anonymous said...


There wouldn't be much of an outcry as by the time someone makes there way through the process they are over the age of 50. Roughly 80% of DIB recipients, the only program available back in the 50s, are over the age of 50. If you are suggesting elimination of SSI, where the majority are under the age of 50, this would result in housewives and individuals with disabilities stemming from birth being forced to rely on friends and family, a situation which the general public realized was unrealistic nearly 70 years ago. Additionally, eliminating SSI would do little to relieve the stress on the trust funds as SSI is roughly 10% of disability recipients, which in turn are roughly 12% of those on retirement and disability combined.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:34

I was not suggesting anything. I merely pointed out what is now considered "brutal" under the original program would not even be a case. As for SSI, which for the record was approved 10/1972 and became a functioning program in 1974, hardly 70 years. I was simply pointing out that until the very recent present, there would be fewer people on benefits and the programs are always changing.

My questions were: What exactly do you want the program to do? How do you want it to operate? What is the intent of the program in the light of 2017?

Should it be easier and faster, presumed disabled until proven otherwise with presumptive payments that would be recovered if disability were not proven? Perhaps a temporary disability program, 70% of current pay or PIA based that last 24 months before being reviewed for cessation or moved to full disability?

What should SSDI be these days?

Anonymous said...


Ah, I misunderstood. Also, I stated SSI was not around 70 years ago, so I think we agree on that point. I said this because my point was that DIB was the only program around at the time there was a 50 years old age minimum, from 1954 through 1960. Imposing a 50 years old minimum on SSI would not be a return to past standards, but a new standard applied to a program never intended to be limited in this way. As you correctly stated, SSI began in 1974.

In regard to how I believe the program should operate, I do not see an issue with it generally. The current stress is due to the ratio of workers to retirees and disabled (which inherently becomes more likely as the individual ages). Ride it out by shifting funds from the general trust fund to the disability trust fund. Shift it back from the disability trust fund to the general fund once the ratio returns to historic levels.

Your suggestion for a 70% current pay or PIA system for the first two years is oddly similar to the distinction made in private insurance plans in regards to short-term and long-term disability plans. I wouldn't be against such a change, and would be interested in seeing the estimates of savings and benefits it would have.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps sending less money to foreign countries and taking care of our own might be an idea. And before you get started, the Dems send more money out of country than the repubs.

Anonymous said...


I do not know if democrats increase foreign aid more than republicans. It would not surprise me, but foreign aid is a relatively bipartisan expenditure from what I've seen. In any event, the 2016 federal budget set foreign assistance at 42.4 billion. This figure includes both humanitarian efforts, but also security and military expenditures (i.e. military contractors, mercenaries, embassy security, etc.). Additionally, this figure allows us to actually pay for our use of allied military infrastructure as we do actually have to pay for the use of their facilities.

The trust funds are expected to run a deficit of 69 billion until 2019 and this deficit will deplete the trust fund by 2034. So even ending the entire foreign aid budget won't solve the problem. Additionally, ending the military expenditures would likely just shift the costs to the actual military budget.

Anonymous said...

to 12:08

It doesn't work that way. There are no benefits to release, emergency or no. She is not entitled to any benefits for the first five calendar months she is disabled. Under current law, there is no way around that.

It is possible that she would be eligible for SSI during that period, but there are other income and resource limitations there that might make her ineligible that are not mentioned in the original story.

Anonymous said...


Ah, I misunderstood. I thought there were retroactive benefits pending...not sure why I thought that. So she was awarded at initial application based on an onset date close to the application date? That would result in the five-month waiting period being at issue in terms of monthly benefits. I've seen quite a few awards at initial application, but rarely based on an onset within five months of the onset date.

Yes, if she was awarded based on an onset date within 5 months of the date of award...that would be a problem.

Anonymous said...

A heartless and gutless system of providing assistance by a federal government agency. But when assistance is truly needed, must then had to be delayed ! Tragically sad!!

Anonymous said...


If you are so sensitive to income variation then buy a private Disability insurance. The only people that get upset about the waiting period are TERI cases.

Anonymous said...

My mom was a great health in June, active and clearly not disabled, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July and died in November. Even if one agreed that her onset was July (and she really wasn't sick or disabled in any sense in June) she'd have died before the waiting period but likely would have been a quick allowance given her condition in August. So I can see how this happens.

Anonymous said...

11:25: I am so sorry to hear that about your mother.

Anonymous said...

She can get ssi and medicaid unless she's resource and income precluded until the 5 months pass. If the diagnosis is older than 5 months, she needs to appeal the onset date.

Anonymous said...

There is an easy fix for Social Security. Raise the FICA tax by 1%. An additional 1% contribution by employees and employers would not harm anyone and would immediately improve the stability of the whole system!