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Compassionate Allowance Initiative

Those applying for Social Security Disability benefits often face a lengthy approval process that can drag on for months. Aware of this, the Social Security Administration conceived the Compassionate Allowance Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to identify disabling conditions that, by their nature, qualify someone for Social Security Disability benefits. If a person has been diagnosed with one of these conditions, he or she automatically meets Social Security’s definition of disability.

Although having one of the medical conditions on the compassionate allowance list does not guarantee you Social Security Disability benefits (you still have to be an insured worker under SSDI and meet the income restrictions under SSI), eliminating the delay in proving that your medical condition meets Social Security’s requirements under its Blue Book listings and confirming its severity speeds up the applications process considerably. Confirmation of a disabling condition under this initiative can allow you to be approved for disability benefits immediately, sometimes in a matter of days. This is important, as these diseases are often aggressive enough to cause death in a relatively short period of time, although not all of the conditions on the list are necessarily terminal.

The Compassionate Allowance Initiative also established the Quick Disability Determination process which outlines procedures for state DDS agencies to use in processing applications under the initiative. Unlike the Compassionate Allowances Initiative, the Quick Disability Determination process does not work off a list of named medical conditions. Instead, it evaluates certain variables to determine the likelihood of an application qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits. A high score in this process identifies your application for probable approval.

The Quick Disability Determination process and Compassionate Allowances process both use computer modeling technology to identify qualified applicants. Currently about 4% of applications received are eligible. Once your application for Social Security Disability benefits is complete, your disability claim is electronically transferred to your state’s DDS office where it is evaluated by computer to determine whether your condition qualifies under the Quick Disability Determination process or under the Compassionate Allowance Initiative.

Under the Quick Disability Determination process, the computer program looks for certain information on your application, such as the name of your diagnosed medical condition, the type and quantity of medications being taken, and personal information such as age, education, and work history. If your application indicates a likelihood of being approved, then it is marked as such and routed to DDS examiners who will evaluate your claim on an expedited basis.

If you have a medical condition on the Compassionate Allowances list, it is assumed that your medical condition is so devastating your condition will qualify for disability benefits on the basis of a valid diagnosis alone. Applications that qualify under the Compassionate Allowances Initiative are also identified when you submit your initial application and also receive expedited handling. All the computer model does in these cases is to identify the name of the condition, its common synonyms, and/or abbreviations for the condition.

The original compassionate allowances list of fifty automatically qualifying medical conditions was adopted in 2008. In 2010, thirty-eight additional medical conditions qualified for compassionate allowance. The list was developed from public hearings, public comment, comments from Social Security and DDS personnel, and advice from the medical and scientific communities. The list now contains more than 200 illnesses or disabilities.