Top 5 Things to Know About Compassionate Allowances in 2024

Each year, thousands of Americans develop disabilities that prevent them from living healthy, functional lives. Thankfully, Social Security provides disability benefits to those who are too impaired to work.

Unfortunately, this process can be long and difficult, especially for those with extremely severe impairments. In dire cases like these, “Compassionate Allowances” help to expedite the application process and get you benefits as soon as possible.

What Are Compassionate Allowances?

Compassionate Allowances help Social Security to prioritize the most visibly disabled people for benefits based on objective medical evidence that can be gathered promptly. Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are a method of swiftly recognizing illnesses and other medical problems that inevitably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on the most basic objective medical facts.

Compassionate Allowances is not a distinct program from Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, but rather a way of assisting people in getting into other current Social Security programs.

CAL conditions are chosen based on information gathered through public outreach meetings, opinions from the Social Security and Disability Determination Services, a council of medical and scientific specialists, and research conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, SSA will take into account which situations are most likely to fulfill their existing definition of impairment.

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What Conditions Qualify for Compassionate Allowances?


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of disabilities with over 200 conditions that qualify as compassionate allowances. Some of the most common conditions that qualify as a compassionate allowance are ALS, Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Joubert Syndrome, and forms of cancer like pancreatic or esophageal cancer.


Many conditions on the compassionate allowances list show the specific set off criteria for how progressive or severe the condition must be. For example, breast cancer could qualify as a compassionate allowance if if it is in stage IV or has or it has metastasized. You’ll need to consult the SSA’s Blue Book listing in order to determine what records and medical documentation are necessary in your application for SSD benefits.

You can find the full list of conditions that qualify as compassionate allowances at the SSA's website. If your condition is not on the list, but it is severe enough that you think it should be. You can submit a condition through the SSA's website as well.

Continue reading below for the top 5 things to know about compassionate allowances.

1. Quick approval

Normally, when someone applies for Social Security disability benefits, the process is quite long. From the application itself to the many medical documents and testimonies provided, a Social Security member must extensively review many moving parts to determine a person’s eligibility. This can occasionally lead to a decision process of around 6-12 months.

Compassionate Allowances speed this process up for those with incredibly severe disabilities. Things like terminal cancers and severe genetic disorders are often eligible for Compassionate Allowances, allowing families to receive funds while the rest of the application is being processed.

Because the approval process is so fast, sometimes claims are denied disability months after Compassionate Allowance benefits have started being provided. In these cases, the family is not required to repay the funds they’ve already received.

Compassionate Allowances automatically qualify for disability benefits. Read our top five things to know about them!

2. No extra work required on the application

The Social Security disability application can be tricky enough as is, requiring extensive documentation of the applicant’s life, health, and history. Luckily, applying for a Compassionate Allowance requires no extra work at all.

When an applicant’s claim is reviewed, the Social Security worker starts with the medical disability and consults the list of Compassionate Allowances. If the paperwork and test results provided show that the applicant has a qualifying disorder, the applicant will begin to receive payments as soon as possible.

3. Payments aren’t instantcompassionate allowance listing

Unfortunately, even the Compassionate Allowances program can’t provide benefits immediately. Even with the expedited process, several factors such as the number of other applications, the speed of submitted medical evidence, and further required examinations can at times delay the decision.

However, most applicants do not have to wait long for their payments to start — most receive Compassionate Allowance benefits from a few weeks to 2 months after the application is received.

4. Medicare is awarded after the normal waiting period

While Compassionate Allowances do provide monthly financial benefits early, there is no expedited process for receiving Medicare. Just as with normal disability applicants, Medicare is typically awarded to Compassionate Allowance recipients 24 months after the disability onset date.

During this time, it is important for applicants to explore other insurance options if their monthly benefits do not compensate for continuing medical and financial issues.

5. Potential eligibility for retroactive payments

When Social Security deems a person eligible for benefits, they also consider how long the applicant was disabled before their application was received. After subtracting the 5-month “waiting period” from the onset of the disability, applicants can receive retroactive pay for the months between when their disability started and when their application was approved.

This means that, even if there are delays with the application itself, Social Security will provide sufficient funds to you for your impairment.

compassionate allowance CALContacting a Social Security Attorney

If you feel that you may qualify for disability benefits, it is wise to consult with a disability advocate or attorney. A disability attorney is an irreplaceable resource at any stage in the process, but especially when filling out applications, keeping paperwork organized, and aiding you in the appeals process if necessary.

To give yourself the best chance at receiving the assistance you deserve, speak with a disability attorney today.

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