SSDI Compassionate Allowances speed processing for sickest claimants

On behalf of Barry Adler

Applications will be fast tracked once a diagnosis from a list of the most serious diseases is identified and documented.

The Social Security Administration is notoriously slow at processing applications for Social Security Disability Insurance. Some of the wait times have been shocking, requiring disabled claimants to wait months or years to get approved for benefits, while in the meantime dealing with severe illness and the financial strain of being unable to work.

To its credit, the SSA started the Compassionate Allowances program, known as CAL, to provide relief to applicants with diseases or conditions so medically severe that once correctly diagnosed and documented in the SSA claim file would automatically qualify them for SSDI because they meet the SSDI definition of disability.

Disability for SSDI purposes is defined as a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments expected to last at least one year or result in death that prevents a person from working. (Certain work history requirements must also be met.) In many cases, determining whether applicants meet this definition can be painstaking and drawn out, so qualifying under the CAL program is a relief to disabled applicants.

The agency has engaged in public outreach, including holding a series of hearings and consulting with medical experts, to identify appropriate CAL conditions, which number over 200. Examples of the types of conditions include particular diagnoses within these categories: autoimmune diseases, cancers, mental illnesses, dementias, brain injury, stroke, rare diseases, organ transplants, heart disease and others.

CAL applications are filed like any other SSDI application, but they are fast tracked once identified either by computer software or by staff. These files do not need as much development as usual and benefits can be swiftly awarded. The SSA reports on its website that CAL applications can be processed within weeks instead of months or years.

While a case can be identified at any level of appeal within the agency (there is the initial application level followed by three types of appeal or review), it is smart for someone with a CAL condition to file a complete, thorough application supported by adequate medical evidence to increase the chance of being flagged as CAL quickly.

Seeking an experienced attorney who helps claimants prepare their applications can make all the difference in this regard. The lawyer will know what the SSA requires as proof and how to be sure the application is thoroughly prepared.

The attorneys at the Adler Firm, in Traverse City, Michigan, represent SSDI claimants throughout southeastern Michigan in initial applications as well as in further reviews and appeals.