For years, long wait times have plagued the Social Security disability benefits process. Unfortunately for many people, their conditions are so severe that any wait for benefits could be disastrous. Therefore, in 2008, the Social Security Administration (SSA) developed the Compassionate Allowance Initiative, and it can be applied to both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.
Put simply, Compassionate Allowance (CA) allows the Social Security Administration to quickly assess a severely disabled claimant’s condition and award him or her benefits faster than normal. People awarded disability benefits through CA receive them because the diagnosis of their condition automatically meets Social Security’s definition of disability. The disease or condition is so debilitating that further diagnosis is not required. These are people who would have always been awarded benefits, but this way they can receive them quicker.
People awarded benefits through Compassionate Allowance (CA) apply for benefits the same way every other applicant for disability benefits does. In order to qualify for benefits under CA, your diagnosis must appear on Social Security’s Compassionate Allowance list, and you must be able to support that diagnosis with medical evidence when you submit your claim. No extra work is involved, and no special criteria must be met.
When a disability determination specialist reviews your file, he or she will look to see whether the condition you suffer from is on the CA list. If the medical documentation you provided supports your claim, you will be fast-tracked for disability benefits. Although there can still be delays, Compassionate Allowance disability beneficiaries can be awarded benefits in as little as a couple of weeks from the day the application was received. It usually does not take longer than two months, and in 2018, the average processing time for CA benefits was nineteen days.
It is important to remember that, even with CA, Social Security still mandates a five-month waiting period; therefore, if you are approved for benefits, five months from your onset date must have passed before you can start collecting them.
When the program began, only fifty conditions qualified for Compassionate Allowance. As of 2016, there are over 200, most of which are certain cancers (especially terminal ones), adult brain disorders, severe genetic disorders, and rare disorders that affect children. Some well-known examples include kidney cancer, malignant multiple sclerosis, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, acute leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
Although the updating process is not constant, Social Security does examine the Compassionate Allowance listings, so it pays to check SSA’s website periodically. The process to add conditions to the CA list includes public comment, counsel from medical and scientific experts, research with the National Institutes of Health, and information received from past public outreach hearings. Five conditions were added in 2018: fibrolamellar cancer; megacystis microcolon intestinal hypoperistalsis syndrome; megalencephaly-capillary malformation syndrome; superficial siderosis of the central nervous system; and tetrasomy 18p.
If you have been diagnosed with a condition that qualifies you for expedited processing through Compassionate Allowance, consult with a trusted Social Security disability attorney. He or she will make sure that your condition is clearly stated on your application and the necessary supporting medical documentation is provided. If you have not heard anything within the first month of your application, your attorney will likely follow up directly with your local Social Security office to obtain a status update.