Compassionate Allowances: Quick approvals for the seriously ill

When American workers suffer an illness or injury that puts them out of work for a year or more, our nation's Social Security disability programs can be crucial. The Social Security Disability Insurance program, for example, is much like private long-term disability insurance in that you've been paying premiums (in the form of FICA taxes) and have a right to expect the benefits you've earned. Yet while SSDI can provide vital benefits, obtaining them does take time. Considering the mandatory waiting period and the backlog in processing claims, it can sometimes take a lot of time.

What do you do if your disability is so serious that you simply can't wait?

Most people would find themselves in a very sticky situation financially if they suddenly found themselves unable to work for an extended period of time, of course. Not many people are in a position to weather a long waiting period before they can even be sure they'll receive benefits -- but for some people, waiting could be pointless.

Why? One common reason is that you've received a diagnosis of a catastrophic or terminal illness. In such a case, you may not have time to wait through a long, complex process. This is the reason for the Social Security Administration's Compassionate Allowances program.

Compassionate Allowances aren't a separate program from Social Security disability -- you must still meet the eligibility requirements for SSDI or Supplemental Security Income. What's different about Compassionate Allowances is that there are some illnesses and injuries that obviously qualify as disabling, according to the SSA's definition of disability.

The SSA has carefully selected conditions that obviously qualify as disabling based on medical and scientific recommendations, research through the National Institutes of Health, comments from Disability Determination Services specialists, and input received at periodic public outreach hearings. Over time, the agency has identified more than 200 conditions that qualify for Compassionate Allowances -- meaning that you only need minimal medical documentation and your application gets put in a much shorter, faster line.

If you or a loved one has learned they have a permanently disabling condition that might qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, a Social Security disability lawyer would be happy to discuss the situation with you.

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