Grieving husband vows to help others after wife’s death
By Mary Drier
MICHIGAN — A man’s pledge to his dying wife to reform Social Security Disability Benefits is gaining momentum.
On July 6, 2012, Brian Moyer laid his wife, Tina, to rest in the Fremont Cemetery in Mayville. She died of cancer within weeks of being diagnosed. Despite her terminal diagnoses by several doctors, she wasn’t able to collect Social Security Disability Benefits because there is a five-month waiting period.
The Moyers felt that the waiting period is wrong because those who are terminally ill need money immediately for medical and living expenses. And many — like Tina — die before the five month wait period is met.
After his wife’s death, Brian made it his mission to have that law changed, and it’s starting to happen.
A resolution sponsored by Senator Mike Green (R – Mayville) and passed by the Michigan Senate during the last legislative session helped prompt the introduction of federal legislation reforming Social Security Disability programs to more quickly provide benefits to terminally ill patients.
“We have cases where people who paid into social security their entire working careers are being denied access to these benefits in their greatest time of need due to bureaucratic red tape,” said Green. “My resolution called for reforms to these programs to provide them a helping hand.”
Green’s resolution, SB-134, was sparked by the Moyer, a former Mayville resident.
Tina was diagnosed with cancer in November 2011. she died on January 23, 2012, from lung and bone cancer at home in Wyoming where the couple moved four years ago from Mayville to find work. She was 52.
Because of the advanced stage of her cancer and the aggressive nature of her treatment, she was no longer able to work which impacted the couple’s ability to cover medical care costs. Even though, she qualified for certain Social Security benefits, she could not collect them because of a five month waiting period. Tina passed away 11 weeks after her diagnosis and before the waiting period for benefits ended.
“Tina worked from the time she was 16 years old in high school,” said Moyer in a pervious interview.
Two days after the shock of finding out the couple started the process of getting her Social Security Benefits, and it was a nightmare with all of the hoops to go through.
According to Moyer, many of the health care professionals and lawmakers didn’t know about that five-month wait provision.
“That money — if even for a few weeks or months — could mean paying for gas to get to a doctor, or medicine, putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. During a person’s last days, things like that shouldn’t be a worry,” he explained.
Tina qualified to receive $754 a month in Social Security, but didn’t live long enough to collect despite having paid federal income and social security taxes all her life. Upon her death, Brian received a Social Security lump sum death payment of $255 for her burial.
In less than three months after finding out about her illness, Tina died in her husband’s arms. On her death bed, Tina asked Brian to work to change federal law so that terminally ill patients could get benefits.
“Getting that waiting law for the terminal changed is what’s right,” he said. “Withholding those benefits from the terminally ill isn’t. It’s not just unethical, it’s criminal. We and our employers pay in for those benefits.”
Moyer agreed with his wife that changing that Social Security provision is necessary.
“Everyone paid into Social Security all their working lives. You find out real quick how expensive treatment is and how scarce your money becomes when you or your spouse are facing a terminal illness and unable to work, even with health insurance. Terminally ill people often need the benefits more than at any other point in their lives and the system tells them no,” said Brian who calls late wife’s request and his efforts for the change “The Good Fight.”
Moyer is pursing his “Good Fight” effort across the United States.
“I took Sen. Green’s resolution after it passed and used it like a sledgehammer to get people’s attention around the country,” said Moyer. “I sent copies to the media, to state legislators across the nation and to members of congress. It has helped open doors and eyes.”
And, his efforts are having an impact. Last week Senators John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the Expedited Disability Insurance Payments for Terminally Ill Individuals Act of 2013. The bill would decrease the waiting period for people who are terminally ill.
The bill states that two physicians who do not work in the same practice must diagnose a qualifying patient as terminally ill with less than six months life expectancy. Benefits would be phased in. During the first month, the patient would receive 50 percent of the monthly benefit. During the second month, the patient would receive 75 percent of the benefit. During months three and beyond, the individual would receive 100 percent of the monthly benefits. After the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Those who support the effort to change Social Security Disability’s wait provision, are encourages to contract their federal representative.
As part of his battle to have wait provision changed, Moyer took his cause on the Internet. For more information about the issue, go to www.Change.Org. Go to the search bar and type in “eliminate wait rule” by Brian Moyer.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.