WASHINGTON – Today, a bill introduced by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to help ALS patients was signed into law by President Biden. The bill is a technical clarification that will ensure ALS patients are given access to their Social Security Disability Insurance benefits without a five month waiting period whether they applied prior to the passage of the ALS Social Security Disability Insurance Act or not.
The ALS Social Security Disability Insurance Access Act was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Senator Tom Cotton and signed into law in December. This law eliminated the five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits for those with medically-diagnosed ALS, because due to the quick and devastating effects of the disease many of those diagnosed do not have five months to wait.
Due to how the Social Security Administration interpreted this law, ALS patients who had already applied for their disability benefits were still being forced to wait the five months. Senators Coons, Braun, Whitehouse, and Cotton introduced a bill to clarify how that part of the law is to be applied: all Americans with medically-diagnosed ALS should be able to access their Social Security Disability benefits without the five month waiting period - not just those who haven’t applied yet. That bill was signed into law today.
“With this technical fix to the law, we’ll finally ensure that ALS patients get the timely financial support they need,” said Senator Coons. “Speedy access to support programs like SSDI after a diagnosis is essential for patients and their families – and one of the priorities we set when we first launched the bipartisan ALS Caucus last year. We must continue to improve the law to make life easier for ALS patients and their loved ones.”
"The financial burden of ALS is staggering, and those who are diagnosed have no time to waste," said Senator Braun. "With this technical fix which is now signed into law we will ensure timely access to Social Security disability benefits is available to ALS patients and the ALS Social Security Disability Insurance Access Act fulfills its promise to help those fighting this terrible disease."
“I’m glad President Biden signed our bill to further increase the number of ALS patients who can immediately receive the disability benefits they are entitled to,” said Senator Whitehouse. “ALS is a terrible disease that takes so much from a person and places a lot of stress on caretakers. This change to the law will make the diagnosis a little bit easier for patients and their families. Senators Braun and Coons have done a lot for ALS patients through the Senate ALS Caucus, and I was proud to work with them on this effort.”
“Americans suffering from ALS shouldn’t have to wait for assistance, especially given their tragically short life expectancy,” said Senator Cotton. “Congress was able to quickly fix the ALS Social Security Disability Insurance Access Act to ensure support is available for all ALS patients—including those who applied for disability benefits before our bill was signed into law last year. I hope the Social Security Administration will implement these changes immediately.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the ability of the brain to control muscle movements. Individuals with ALS progressively lose the ability to speak, walk, and breathe. There is no effective treatment for the disease, no known cause, and—currently—no cure.
ABOUT THE SENATE ALS CAUCUS:
The Senate ALS Caucus founded in January 2020 by Senators Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Mike Braun, R-Indiana. The Caucus brings together senators from both sides of the aisle who share a commitment to working collaboratively to advocate on behalf of ALS patients and their families to: raise awareness about the difficulties faced by ALS patients and their families; advance policies that improve the quality of life for ALS patients; expand the network of support for those suffering from ALS; and advocate for investments in research that will enhance our understanding of the causes of ALS, identify effective treatments, and eventually discover a cure.