Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances Program

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is notorious for its slow pace in processing claims, especially if the person making the claim has been denied and is seeking an appeal hearing to contest. Applicants can wait months or even a year or longer for the chance to begin receiving benefits. However, when an applicant's medical condition is serious enough that it obviously meets the SSA's definition of a disability, the SSA has a duty to provide benefits more quickly through its compassionate allowances (CAL) program and quick disability determination process (QDD).

Not everyone will qualify for these programs. The condition must be severe and the SSA has its own internal process for classifying applicants — there is no way to apply or request to be treated as a qualifying applicant. However, for those the SSA does identify as either a CAL or QDD process, the application process can potentially be expedited.

The Compassionate Allowances Program

The CAL program uses only the applicant's initial form claiming disability benefits. An electronic database looks over a claimant's electronic application for a predetermined list of qualifying diseases. There are 88 CAL afflictions currently, including cancers and rare diseases. While the medical condition must be severe, not all CAL cases involve a terminal illness. For example, a spinal cord injury would qualify for a compassionate allowance.

CAL conditions are developed through public outreach hearings, public comments and the advice of medical and scientific experts. In March, the SSA conducted a CAL outreach hearing regarding autoimmune disease. Some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, are currently not on the list, but may be included in the future.

The Quick Disability Determination Process

Under the Code of Federal Regulations, if the SSA identifies a claim as having a high likelihood that they will find the individual to be disabled, then the SSA will send the claim to the applicant's state agency for consideration under the quick disability determination process. The state agency will then:

  • Have a medical or psychological expert verify that the evidence indicates the individual's physical or mental impairment meets the SSA's standards
  • Determine disability benefits based only on what is in the applicant's file

Like the CAL program, a QDD claim is expedited. However, the process for identifying CAL claims is simpler than QDD claims, and there is less of a chance of being removed from a CAL designation.

Questions? Speak to an Attorney.

An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can further address your questions and concerns. An attorney can bring your attention to all of the ins and outs of the application and appeal process, such as QDD and CAL programs.