Compassionate Allowances for SSDI Claimants in Massachusetts and Elsewhere

The process of applying for benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program can be complicated and time-consuming. For a variety of reasons, including the sheer volume of SSDI claims, a claimant can wait months or even years for a decision. By law, a claimant must wait at least five months from the onset of their disability before they can receive benefits, but many claimants must wait much longer. Some conditions that cause a person to qualify for SSDI, however, are severe enough that the person cannot wait months or years for benefits. In response to complaints about long waiting periods for SSDI decisions, the Social Security Administration (SSA) created the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative in 2008.

The SSDI Application Process

A claim for SSDI benefits requires a claimant to prove that they are “disabled” within the meaning of Social Security laws and regulations. This typically involves establishing that the claimant is suffering from an impairment that prevents them from working, and that this impairment is likely to persist for a year or longer. A claimant can present medical evidence of one or more conditions included in the SSA’s listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book, or the claimant can establish disability based on the SSA’s medical-vocational guidelines, known as the “grid rules.”

Preparing an application takes time, and as mentioned earlier, SSA’s processing time for applications can be quite lengthy. CAL cases, however, are eligible for expedited processing.

The Compassionate Allowances Initiative

The CAL is essentially a list of impairments that qualify for expedited processing by the SSA. There is no separate application process for CAL. A claimant submits a regular SSDI application, and the Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiner directs it to the CAL program.

While the CAL program itself offers faster turnaround times on SSDI applications—weeks instead of months or years, according to the SSA—the process depends on a claimant’s doctors and hospitals responding to requests from the SSA in a timely manner. Claimants can help speed the process along by submitting medical evidence with their applications.

Conditions on the Compassionate Allowances List

The SSA maintains a list of over 200 impairments that qualify for the CAL initiative. These include many types of cancer, as well as degenerative diseases like muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

For some of the CAL conditions, proof of a diagnosis is enough to qualify the claimant for expedited processing. For example, a claimant who can demonstrate a diagnosis of ALS, early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, liver cancer, or pancreatic cancer is automatically eligible for CAL.

Claimants with certain types of cancer, however, must present more than just a diagnosis in order to be eligible for CAL. Medical evidence showing bone, breast, kidney, or ovarian cancer, for example, must show significant metastases or recurrence, or a diagnosis that the cancer is inoperable.

Expedited SSDI Processing through Compassionate Allowances

Claimants whose impairments are included in the CAL initiative should expect a faster turnaround time from the SSA than other SSDI claimants. Other rules still apply, however, such as the five-month minimum waiting period between the onset of a claimant’s disability and the start of SSDI benefits, and the 24-month waiting period before a claimant can receive Medicare benefits.

Other possible options for expedited SSDI application processing include the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) and the terminal illness (TERI) program.

To learn more about filing an SSDI claim, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith today at 1-800-773-8622 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Lawmakers Must Act to Prevent Depletion of SSDI Trust Fund in 2016, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, August 2, 2015

Capitol Hill Hearings, Proposed Legislation Target Dual Collection of SSDI and Unemployment, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, August 2, 2015

How to Apply for SSDI Benefits in Maine and Beyond, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2015

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