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Developer of SSD Compassionate Allowances program wins service medal

An associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Diane Braunstein, was presented with a prestigious public service award Thursday night for her development of the SSA's Compassionate Allowances program. Braunstein, who is now Associate Commissioner for International Programs, was honored with the 2011 Samuel J. Heyman Citizen Services Medal from the Partnership for Public Service. The medal is given to federal employees who have made significant contributions to the nation, in the hopes that their service will inspire others.

Braunstein headed the development of the Compassionate Allowances initiative, which was launched in 2008. The initiative identified 50 serious medical conditions that clearly met the SSA's statutory definition for disability. When Social Security Disability applications come in listing one of the identified conditions, the Compassionate Allowances program allows those applications to be expedited, often resulting in people receiving an initial disability determination within days of their applications.

Since its inception, the Compassionate Allowances program has identified a total of 100 medical conditions that qualify for the fast-track process, including 12 that were added just recently. The conditions include early-onset Alzheimer's disease, severe heart disease, adult brain disorders and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, among others. The Social Security Administration continues to work on identifying additional conditions that could qualify.

"All of us at Social Security are very proud of Diane and the results of her hard work on Compassionate Allowances," said Commissioner Michael J. Astrue at the awards gala. "Through her efforts, this expedited process has already helped about 100,000 people with severe disabilities get benefit decisions within days instead of months or years."

Source: Social Security Administration press release, "Social Security Executive Diane Braunstein Wins the 2011 Service to America Medal," Sept. 16, 2011

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