Social Security Disability Insurance exclusions are bankrupting and killing us.

We Can't Wait is the movement of Americans fighting to end these exclusions.

Nearly 2 million people apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits each year. Many of us have disabilities that will prevent us from working again.

SSDI is a lifeline that we depend on to pay rent and buy food.

But the current system denies us SSDI for the first five months after we get sick, insurance benefits we have earned.

These exclusion periods are bankrupting and killing us. In the last 10 years, 110,000 people have died while waiting for disability insurance.

We're telling Congress: End the five-month SSDI exclusion.

Read Our Open Letter to Congress

We, the We Can’t Wait Coalition members, write to ask you to give eligible people with disabilities access to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare benefits they have earned…

Workers in America contribute to SSDI through a deduction from every paycheck to ensure that if they become disabled, they can access that insurance to pay bills, cover health care costs, and contribute to the economy. SSDI is not a benefits program – it is a funded insurance program managed through the Social Security Disability Insurance Fund. SSDI is only available to people who have contributed enough to the SSDI fund through work, and it is limited based on how long the person has worked. Yet, people are denied payments for the first five months after becoming eligible and then wait an additional two years to access Medicare. These exclusion periods are fundamentally unfair; they delay people from seeking treatment and eventually returning to work, and they prevent people from accessing the insurance for which they paid.

The approval process for most SSDI applicants already takes an average of nearly 18 months. As the Government Accountability Office has reported, in the last ten years, approximately 110,000 people died while awaiting a decision on their SSDI benefits. In the last five years, about 50,000 people filed for bankruptcy while waiting for a decision on their SSDI application. For the Government to decide that people are eligible for SSDI, they already must not be earning a “substantial” amount; to impose these additional exclusion periods is to force them to be impoverished while battling horrific chronic illness and disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an economic crisis that has forced even more people out of work, further compounding the problem. Many people with disabilities, including those caused by COVID-19, will be unable to return to work. Denying them access to their earned insurance benefits for five months and their healthcare for 24 months exacerbates these effects – leaving people with disabilities unable to pay COBRA or other health care premiums, rent, and other essential expenses, and forcing them onto welfare and Medicaid to survive. Receipt of SSDI payments extends life expectancy, reduces burdens on state unemployment and welfare programs, and helps people avoid SSI and Medicaid. Even a one-month delay in receipt of SSDI benefits makes the applicant less likely to return to work and reduces their annual earnings. In this time, when we need everyone to contribute to our economy, forcing people into poverty when they have earned SSDI benefits is harmful, not only to the individuals but to our national interest.

In 2020, Congress eliminated the five-month exclusion period for people with ALS. As Senator Whitehouse noted, it “made no sense” to exclude ALS patients from five months of SSDI benefits. It makes no more sense to deny five months of benefits to people with cancer, AIDS, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or other disabilities and life-threatening conditions, particularly when they already wait an average of 18 months for a decision. We urge you to eliminate the exclusion periods that harm American workers with disabilities.


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