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What are Compassionate Allowances?

When you have a debilitating medical condition that keeps you from working or otherwise enjoying your life, it’s fairly obvious to you why you deserve Social Security Disability benefits. However, not all conditions are so straightforward or obvious to Social Security Administration (SSA) officials. This is why it has such a rigorous application process.

However, within the last decade or so, the SSA has been working to make the process simpler for applicants. In 2008, the SSA started the Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL. CAL short-lists certain chronic conditions or diseases that naturally meet the medical requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of their severity.

In other words, these conditions automatically meet the SSD/SSI medical requirements by virtue of being diagnosed.

What conditions does the CAL program include?

So far, CAL’s list includes over 200 conditions, many of them rare or genetic conditions. Here are some that you might recognize:

  • Many types of cancer, including pancreatic, liver and thyroid cancers
  • Cancers where tumors are inoperable or “unresectable” in places such as the brain, breast, stomach, kidney, ovaries or intestines
  • Acute leukemia
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
  • Certain autoimmune disorders
  • Edwards syndrome (Trisomy 18)
  • Perry syndrome

The SSA regularly seeks input from medical experts, scientific researchers, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and public and private advocacy groups to regularly refine the list. You can even suggest conditions for consideration on the CAL program website, though doing so requires a significant amount of technical and medical information. The consideration process can also take several months, since the SSA usually gathers additional input from other experts, so making a suggestion won’t expedite your SSDI or SSI claim.

Do I need to qualify for CAL?

There isn’t a separate application to CAL. The CAL list simply allows the SSA to make quicker decisions about SSDI or SSI applications. The same rules apply to both programs.

So, the application process is pretty much the same regardless if you are applying for SSDI or SSI benefits. The only difference is that the SSA can assess your application faster if you have a condition on the CAL list and provided you include all the appropriate medical documentation of your diagnosis.

Keep in mind that even if your condition qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance, the forms and process can still be quite overwhelming. You may still be undergoing treatment, or grappling with the reality of your diagnosis. Therefore, it can be beneficial to seek help from a qualified SSD/SSI attorney who can work on your claim while you work on recovery.

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