The Duluth News Tribune has a heartwrenching story about a disabled man who felt compelled to go to work every day, even though he was dying of lung cancer, because of the waiting period to begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits.

Tom Karasti couldn’t collect Social Security Disability because he was still working. And if he had quit his job, he would have had to wait at least five months – and probably longer with the backlog – to begin collecting benefits. Congressional and state offiicials said Karasti had other options besides continuing to work, but for whatever reason, he chose not to go that route.

And his case is not unique. Many seriously and terminally ill people find themselves caught in a Catch-22 similar to Karasti’s – too sick to work but unable to forego income during the mandated waiting period for benefits. “A lot of cancer people die within that waiting period,” Bob Burgess, a former president of the National Association of Disability Examiners who worked 35 years with the Social Security program, said from Texas. Burgess, who is among those advocating for dropping the waiting period for all eligible applicants, acknowledged cost as the obvious impediment. “I don’t know how we would pay for it,” he said.

By the way, Karasti died Feb. 14.