WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski last night introduced the Robert James Act of 2008. This legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senator Stevens, fixes an inequity in the Social Security Disability Insurance system by allowing the five month waiting period for disability compensation to be waived if an individual diagnosed with a terminal illness can demonstrate financial hardship.

“My legislation would give the Social Security Commissioner the discretion to waive the arbitrary five month waiting period for terminally ill individuals who can demonstrate financial hardship,” said Senator Murkowski. “Individuals and families facing a terminal illness should not have their stress exacerbated by financial issues arising from unmanageable medical expenses.”

“Without legislation that allows the Commissioner of Social Security to review situations like that of Robert James on a case-by-case basis, federal disability insurance is effectively denied to those who may need it most. This is contrary to the very purpose of system,” said Senator Stevens. “I commend Senator Murkowski for her leadership in addressing this inequity and urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

This legislation is named in honor of Robert James, an Alaskan diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in November 2007, who was given three to six months to live. Despite having medical insurance, he is unable to work and has incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills. Unfortunately he will not be able to qualify for disability compensation because of the five month waiting period. This legislation could help diminish financial worries on individuals and families already facing emotional hardship.