"Compassionate allowances" can speed up disability benefit applications

Most people know - whether through personal experience, the illness of a loved one or from media coverage - that the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits for people with illnesses so severe that they are unable to work. The funding for these disability payments come from two major sources, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Even with disability concerns being much more open than in the past, and with applications being submitted at higher numbers than ever before, the system definitely isn't perfect. One of the biggest issues with federal disability programs is the length of the application process. Current wait times stretch from an average of six months to a year (sometimes even longer), and that is just for the preliminary application to be processed. Given that nearly two-thirds of initial applications are denied, tack on several more months for an application to be reconsidered, all before any benefits are awarded.

Granted, SSDI and SSI benefits are only available for those illnesses that have already (or are reasonably anticipated to) last at least a year or are likely to result in death, but the application process itself sometimes outlasts the applicants. Fortunately, the government recognizes that there are instances where, due to the nature of the illness or condition that the applicant is suffering from, the benefits process needs to move quicker.

"Fast-tracking" some applicants

The "fast-tracked" process is known as a "compassionate allowance," and is available to those afflicted with certain diseases - among them, several types of cancers, paralytic conditions and illnesses resulting in degenerative effects on the muscular or nervous systems - that are generally accepted as debilitating and can be quantified with a minimum of medical data. Applicants seeking disability benefit payments for one of the 200 accepted compassionate allowance conditions can generally expect an initial determination of their applications in a number of weeks instead of the months-long process for less-debilitating conditions.

The application process for someone seeking disability benefits for a compassionate allowance condition (CAL) is not any different from a standard application; the difference comes when the application is being considered by representatives from the SSA. There were 35 new conditions added to the CAL list in late 2012, and the SSA vows to consider adding new ones as more information comes to light. Almost 200,000 people have been awarded fast-tracked benefits since the CAL program began in 2008.

Are you or a loved one interested in applying for disability benefits for a CAL condition? Need more information about the SSDI or SSI programs in general? Had your disability benefits application denied? Have other questions about disability? For more information about the SSDI, SSI and CAL programs or for help navigating through the disability system, consult an experienced social security disability attorney in your area.