Compassionate Allowances expedite SSDI claims for devastating illnesses

Compassionate Allowances expedite SSDI claims for devastating illnesses


The Social Security Administration fast tracks applications of claimants with severe medical conditions so crippling the agency labels them as automatically disabling.

It is common knowledge that applying for Social Security Disability Insurance can be a challenging, sometimes overwhelming, experience. The application itself as well as the process are complicated and can be exhausting for a claimant experiencing serious medical impairments. In response to criticism that it can take months or even years for an eligible claimant to get his or her application approved and begin to receive monthly SSDI payments, the Social Security Administration improved the process by creating the Compassionate Allowances program, known as CAL.

Using technology, CAL identifies SSDI applications of claimants who have certain devastating illnesses or injuries for fast tracked processing because the impairments are so serious that the Social Security Administration views them as automatically meeting the SSA definition of disability once basic objective medical evidence of the diagnosis is in the claimant’s application file. CAL applications can be approved in a matter of weeks rather than months or more.

One of the reasons the process of evaluating an SSDI application can be lengthy is that the definition of disability under the Social Security Act is complicated: A claimant is disabled for SSDI purposes if he or she has a severe medical impairment or combination of impairments, physical or mental, expected to last at least a year or result in death that prevents the claimant from working.

Analyzing a claimant’s condition under this definition is normally done using a five-step process and can require gathering substantial medical evidence and information about other relevant matters like age, education, skills, past work and limitations on work activities.

CAL does not require this kind of extensive development of the record. Assuming an applicant meets other nonmedical requirements like adequate work history, once objective medical evidence of the CAL condition is submitted, the application can be approved.

SSA continually assesses which medical conditions should be added to the CAL list, which consists mainly of diseases, injuries or conditions of these types:

  • Rare diseases
  • Cancers
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Stroke
  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Certain organ transplants and transplant candidates
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Neurological disorders
  • And more

As of this writing in January 2016, there are at least 225 CAL conditions on the list. Significantly, according to Senior Journal, as of 1214, almost 200,000 CAL claims had been approved.

It can be extremely helpful to retain an attorney for assistance presenting an SSDI claim as early as possible, even at the application stage. However, there are three levels of review and appeal within the SSA and the option of federal court review, and bringing in legal counsel at any stage can make a real difference.

The lawyers at the Law Office of Morrin & Sands PLLC in Westbury, New York, represent SSDI claimants in initial applications and at every stage of review and appeal.

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