For most people, applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a lengthy and laborious process. The burden is especially troubling to those who are seriously ill. Many find themselves wondering why - when they are so obviously unable to work - they must spend what precious energy they have wading through seemingly insurmountable stacks of paperwork.
To help solve this problem, the Social Security Administration (SSA) created a program called "Compassionate Allowances." The program allows the SSA to quickly target obviously qualified individuals and fast-track them through the application process. Instead of requiring the claimants to provide extensive medical documentation, the SSA simply contacts their doctor to confirm the diagnosis.
The accelerated benefits are available to individuals diagnosed with one of over 100 qualifying conditions. This summer, the SSA added 12 conditions to the list. They are:
- Aoretic atresia
- Eisenmenger syndrome
- Endomyocardial fibrosis
- Heart transplant graft failure
- Heart transplant wait list 1A/1B
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) recipient
- Mitral valve atresia
- Primary cardiac amloidosis
- Pulmonary atresia
- Single ventricle
- Tricuspid atresia
Most, but not all, of the conditions covered by the Compassionate Allowances program are terminal, rare and hard to treat. Other conditions on the list of qualifying disabilities include acute leukemia, early-onset Alzheimer's disease, pleural mesothelioma and infantile Tay Sachs disease.
Program Drastically Shortens Waiting Time
The Compassionate Allowance program has smoothed the Social Security disability application process so much that its former director, Diane Braunstein, was awarded the 2011 Citizen Services Medal by the Partnership for Public Service. The award is one of the most prestigious distinctions a federal employee can earn.
Ms. Braunstein oversaw the program's development, and under her leadership the SSA was able to reduce the time a claimant must wait for an eligibility decision down to an average of two weeks. Previously, the process took months or even years.
Approximately 45,000 people qualified for the Compassionate Allowance Program in 2010, with an additional 20,000 expected in 2011. The program began in 2008.
Individuals applying for Social Security disability benefits should seek the advice of an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can help plan the best course of action.