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What should I know about the SSA's Compassionate Allowances?

Many readers may be aware that according to guidelines established by the Social Security Administration, people with a qualifying medical condition are provided for with Social Security Disability benefits. In order to expedite certain cases, the SSA maintains a list of qualifying conditions that are clear cases of disability. That list is known as the Compassionate Allowances initiative.

The SSA's Compassionate Allowance initiative focuses on finding the most obviously disabling conditions. However, applicants must remember that CAL is an initiative that is only meant to speed up claims by studying those diseases that are clearly disabling. The initiative is not different or separate from the Supplemental Security Income program or the Social Security Disability Insurance program.

The CAL initiative gathers information for identifying disabling conditions from the Social Security and Disability Determination Services communities, from public outreach hearings, from various experts in the fields of science and medicine, and National Institutes of Health research. After gathering relevant information, the CAL initiative compares its findings with the definitions of the disabilities according to the definitions of the SSA. If it is determined that the particular disability matches the definition, the medical condition is included in the CAL initiative to help expedite claims from applicants.

The SSA has previously held seven public outreach hearings. Those hearings addressed various rare medical conditions, cancers, traumatic brain injuries and certain heart diseases, among various other serious disabling conditions. In addition to that, the CAL initiative also continues to identify new disabling conditions for which a person should be able to obtain SSD benefits by means of various programs and policies.

In order to apply for SSD benefits for illnesses under the SSA's CAL initiative, applicants must use the same form that they would use for SSI or SSDI benefits. Upon receiving the application, the SSA will review it and accept those who qualify for the CAL initiative. Applicants usually receive a response from the SSA within a few weeks. However, the timing depends on the urgency and severity of the medical condition.

Source: SSA.gov, "Compassionate Allowances Frequently Asked Questions," accessed on Jan. 21, 2015

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