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What is the compassionate allowances program?

The Social Security Administration's Compassionate Allowances program expedites the identification of diseases and medical conditions for awarding Social Security Disability benefits. It identifies medical conditions that are so severe that they obviously meet the SSA's definition of a disability. Eligible applicants under this program may receive Social Security Disability benefits for illness and injury in a shorter time than other recipients.

Generally, SSA grants SSD benefits to persons with disabilities who are insured by their workers' contributions to the Social Security trust fund. Contributions are calculated from workers' earnings or from their spouses or parents under the Federal Insurance Contribution Act. Dependents may also receive benefits based upon a person's earnings.

Instead of months or years, CAL claimants may receive a decision on their claim within weeks. This depends on how quickly SSA receives medical evidence, whether a medical examination is necessary to support the claim and if the claim is randomly selected for quality assurance review.

The SSA does not inform applicants if their claim is selected for expedited processing, except in the event additional medical information is needed as part of its decision-making process. Additionally, a CAL condition does not increase the amount that an individual receives in the SSDI program, only accelerates the decision of awarding benefits.

CAL conditions that meet the definition of an eligible disability are based upon information from the public, advocacy groups, the Social Security and Disability Determination communities, medical and scientific experts and the National Institutes of Health. The SSA also updates its CAL conditions and meets with groups on improving the application process to receive disability benefits. It works with the NIH to quickly determine when impairments become serious and meet the legal definition of a disability. SSA intends to update the list of conditions that meet the CAL standards each year.

An attorney may assist applicants in identifying conditions for this program, meeting its requirements and preparing the application for SSDI. Legal assistance can provide guidance and help assure that an applicant's rights to benefits are protected.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Compassionate Allowances," Accessed March 19, 2017

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