Rep. Israel: Speed disability pay to terminally ill

Susan Young, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, stands Susan Young, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, stands with Congressman Steve Israel as he announces legislation to eliminate the mandatory waiting period for Social Security payments for the terminally ill in Melville. (March 28, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Doctors gave Susan Young nine months to live upon her diagnosis with stage-four lung cancer last October. The Dix Hills resident quit her job as a school speech pathologist and was approved for Social Security Disability payments -- then was told she had to wait five months for the benefits to start.

"It just seems like a total injustice," Young, 64, said Friday, flanked by her husband, Edward, and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who will introduce legislation to exempt the terminally ill from the federal government's standard waiting period for disability payments.

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Current law mandates that the Social Security Administration wait to pay out disability benefits as a way of ensuring that approved recipients actually have a long-term disability. But Israel insisted it makes no sense when recipients are given less than a year to live.

"When you've been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, and when the statistics tell you that you have a limited amount of time, and the bureaucracy says we're not going to begin providing these payments for five months of this limited amount of time -- that's outrageous," Israel said at a Melville news conference.

Social Security Administration officials pointed out that the waiting period is not their policy, but required by law. Spokesman Mark Hinkle said the agency currently expedites applications of the most seriously ill people.

Young, who worked for the Plainview Old Bethpage School District for 20 years, received approval in November for $2,002 in monthly disability payments, beginning in May. Her husband called the wait an "obvious flaw in the system."

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"With a nine-month diagnosis, they're taking away 50 to 60 percent of that time," Edward Young said.

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