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Dying Woman Forced to Wait for Social Security Disability Benefits

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Farmington, NHThe rules that govern the distribution of social security disability are forcing a 47-year-old woman dying of cancer to wait five months for her benefits—even though she was approved for aid in January and was found to have become disabled under administration rules November 1. Heather Russell will finally take delivery of her first check on May 19.

The process of getting approved for benefits can take years. Once approved, however, there is a built-in lag time that is meant to "ensure that we do not pay benefits to people who do not have a long-term disability," said Kia Green, a spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration.

That rule has been around since 1956, according to the 3/1710 edition of Foster's Daily Democrat, based out of Dover, New Hampshire. Now Russell and her family want to see that rule changed.

Ten months ago Russell was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. With tumors spreading through her lungs, brain, pelvis, neck and adrenal gland, she's trying to hang on long enough to make it to a couple of spring weddings—her cousin marries in April and her niece walks down the aisle in May.

There's no guarantee she'll make it to either of those events. For that matter, there's no guarantee Russell will live long enough to collect her first Social Security disability benefits check in mid-May.

US Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are cosponsoring legislation, known as S. 700, "to eliminate the waiting period for individuals with life-threatening conditions" covered by Social Security.

Currently Russell is subsisting on savings and short-term disability through her former employer, which helps cover living expenses. A partial disability payment from a previous injury helps pay the rent. She's hoping the $1,351 per month she expects to collect through Social Security Disability benefits will help pay off her medical bills, which amount to $20,000.

Her parents, who help her out as best they can, live month-to-month on what she describes as modest Social Security benefits.

Last month Russell wrote Senator Judd Gregg, hoping to have the rule waived "so that I may receive the approved benefits as soon as possible and thus maintain a reasonable quality of lifestyle during my continuing battle with this disease."

In a statement to the Daily Democrat, Heather said, "My time may be short, but I wouldn't want to see anyone else go through it. It's not right."


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Posted by

Legislation to do away with this five month waiting period will NEVER be approved by Congress. If you investigate, you will see that many, many have had their respective legislators introduce this same worded bill, including me. The Joseph H. Seall Act. My husband died in 2006, after having been diagnosed with stage iv terminal cancer. Was approved, BUT had to wait the five months. He died and never drew one dime. The only way this will happen is if we all can find someone to take on a Class Action against the Government. It is totally discriminatory. I'd be on board to head it up!! Our Government knows exactly what its doing!!! Ponzi scheme at its best.


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