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SSA considers adding heart disease to Compassionate Allowances

In recent months, the Social Security Administration has received an influx of negative public opinion and outrage because of the continually increasing average application wait times. For most Social Security Disability applicants, finding ways to make ends meet while unemployed and waiting for SSD benefits is challenging. But for those who are afflicted with a serious disease or disability, waiting for months or years may actually be impossible.

In light of this, the SSA has created the Compassionate Allowances program, which allows people with certain, more severe disabilities to have their SSD applications fast-tracked. Those applicants can then receive their much-needed benefits more quickly.

The impetus behind the Compassionate Allowances program was the realization that most people who suffer from certain diseases or disabilities will ultimately qualify for SSD regardless of the conditions surrounding their disability. Therefore, it made little sense to make them wait out the full application period. In addition, there was little subjective medical information that would factor in to whether they were granted benefits, so to grant them quickly seemed logical.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue has held several public outreach hearings to discuss adding additional diseases and disabilities to the 80 specified Compassionate Allowances disabilities. Hearings have been held on rare diseases, cancers, traumatic brain injury and stroke, early-onset Alzheimer's disease and similar dementia illnesses, and schizophrenia.

Most recently, a hearing was held on cardiovascular diseases, in recognition of February's designation as American Heart Month, to determine whether it should be added to the list.

Astrue says that approximately 150,000 people will receive early benefits from the Compassionate Allowances program this fiscal year.

Source: Public Opinion Online, "Social Security tackles heart disease", Oscar Torres, 23 February 2011

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