According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information (i).” This program is designed to help people who have the most serious disabilities attain benefits quickly and easily. Specifically, many of the conditions which fall under the purview of this Program have a dire prognosis and may even be terminal.
In most cases, an application approval from the SSA can take months, if it is approved at all. However, under the Compassionate Allowance Program, a person may receive approval of benefits in a matter of days or weeks. In addition, an applicant whose condition falls under this Program may not have to provide the SSA with as many medical records as another applicant who is suffering a less severe disability. For example, a biopsy or similar test which conclusively shows a diagnosis of cancer may satisfy the SSA’s evidentiary requirements. In contrast, a person who is disabled due to asthma will need to provide much more information before obtaining benefits. While both applicants are entitled to benefits, the SSA has made a policy choice to expedite the application process for the person suffering the more severe condition.
What Conditions Make a Patient Eligible for a Compassionate Allowances?
There are currently more than 200 conditions which qualify an applicant for the Compassionate Allowance Program. Among these conditions are many types of cancer, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and other progressive diseases. Within this Program, certain diagnoses will not trigger an approval unless accompanied by evidence that it has progressed to a certain point. For example, a cancer diagnosis alone may not qualify for Compassionate Allowances unless the disease has advanced to a late stage.
The SSA is always looking into which conditions should be added to this list by consulting with the general public, advocacy groups, and medical experts. According to a January 2014 press release from the SSA, twenty-five (25) conditions have been added to the Compassionate Allowance Program bringing the total number of qualifying conditions to two-hundred twenty-five (225). Congressman Elijah Cummings applauded the recent update to the Program, especially the inclusion of Prostate Cancer, calling it a “decision that will save lives.” According to the press release, the most recent statistics show that this Program has helped more than 200,000 people suffering severe disabilities (ii).
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- (i) Social Security Administration, Compassionate Allowances.
- (ii) Social Security Administration, January 15, 2014 Press Release.