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Compassionate allowances program benefits the very ill

When discussing a waiting period for many things, three months doesn't seem that long. However, in cases where an individual is unable to work and facing a life-threatening disease or disorder, three months can seem like an eternity. Yet this timeframe, 86 days, is the average wait time an individual who applies for Social Security disability benefits must wait for a decision. What's more, if an individual's application was not complete or submitted evidence was not sufficient to prove one's disability, an applicant many have to wait more than a year to learn about the status of an appeal.

For individuals suffering from certain chronic forms of cancer, heart problems and brain disorders; time is of the essence and often these individuals cannot afford to wait months. In 2008, the Social Security Administration established a compassionate allowances program within its larger Social Security disability program.

The program helped meet the needs of SSD applicants whose medical conditions are especially serious in nature. Previously the applications of these individuals were mixed among the large backlog of other SSD applications. As a result, many died before a disability determination was made. Through the compassionate allowances program, the SSD benefits of an estimated 200,000 individuals have been successfully expedited.

Currently there are a total of 225 conditions on the list. Suffering some of the most serious of all medical conditions, individuals who apply for SSD benefits under the compassionate allowances program are not able to work or earn an income. As a result, many face extreme financial hardships that threaten their ability to pay rent or a mortgage, buy food and clothing and afford supplementary medical products or therapies.

The average SSD beneficiary receives $1,146 per month. The financial assistance provided via SSD benefits allow individuals with serious medical conditions and disabilities to maintain a certain standard of living thereby allowing their final days to be lived out in relative comfort and with dignity.

SSD applicants with conditions that are included on the compassionate allowances list often begin receiving benefits within a month. However, SSD applicants with other serious and disabling physical and medical conditions that are not included on the list must often wait months or even years. For these individuals, an attorney who successfully handles SSD claims can assist in ensuring benefits are awarded as soon as possible.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "'Compassionate allowances' fast-track applications for disability benefits," Judi Hasson, May 14, 2014

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