We recently discussed Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance program that allows certain applicants to be fast-tracked for benefits on the diagnosis of a specific condition alone. For applicants who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, Social Security also allows for an expedited review process called the TERI (terminal illness) program.
Like with Compassionate Allowance, TERI applicants have to apply like everyone else and meet Social Security’s definition of disabled. If, however, the condition that TERI applicants have been diagnosed with is likely to result in their death, their claims will be processed differently so that these terminally ill claimants can begin to receive disability benefits faster.
The TERI program allows for special sensitivity to the emotional ramifications of terminal conditions. For example, if an applicant applies for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and a disability claims examiner realizes that the applicant suffers from a terminal illness, the case will be flagged for the TERI program, but the applicant will not be notified that his or her condition is considered terminal for Social Security disability purposes.
When your application for disability benefits is reviewed by a claims examiner at Disability Determination Services (DDS), the examiner can send your claim to the TERI program if he or she sees that a doctor, friend, or family member has stated that the disease is expected to result in the claimant’s death or that the claimant is currently receiving hospice care. If an applicant presents a potential TERI program claim, a medical consultant must review the file before a disability claims examiner can make the final TERI determination.
Although you do not need to state that your condition is terminal on your disability application, you might benefit from doing so. If you know that you suffer from a terminal condition, make sure that your doctor has officially diagnosed you with a TERI-approved terminal illness and that the diagnosis appears in your medical records. Also, make sure that your Social Security contact at your local field office is aware that your condition is terminal.
Social Security provides a thorough but inexhaustive list of accepted terminal illnesses for the TERI program. If you have ALS or AIDS, you will automatically qualify for the TERI program. Some other commonly accepted terminal conditions include mesothelioma, chronic heart failure, metastatic cancer, and patients awaiting heart, lung, liver, or bone marrow transplants. Cancers commonly qualify for the TERI program. According to the American Cancer Society, over 200 types of cancer currently exist, and over 1.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year.
If your condition is terminal, but it is not listed as one of the common TERI-approved conditions, make sure Social Security knows that you will not recover from your illness and that your prognosis is death. And check Social Security’s website for updates to the list of conditions accepted for Compassionate Allowance.