As we discussed in a previous blog post, the Social Security Disability (SSD) application process usually takes several months, even in the best of circumstances. If your application is denied ― and more than half of applications are denied on the first round of review ― it can take months, or even several years, to complete the appeals process. As a result, many very sick people go without benefits, and some of them die before their applications are ever approved.

How is Social Security trying to fix the problem?

In an attempt to speed the approval process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has created the Compassionate Allowance program. The goal of this program is to identify claimants whose conditions, in the SSA’s words, “obviously meet” the agency’s definition of disability. Applicants who have been diagnosed with a condition that is covered by the program can have their benefits approved very quickly ― in some cases, in as little as two to three weeks from the date on the application.

While the payments still cannot start until after the five-month waiting period that is required by law, the Compassionate Allowance program is designed to alleviate the anxiety of waiting for a decision on an application and the fear that an obviously disabled person will have to endure the SSA’s long appeals process.

The Compassionate Allowance program has been in existence since 2008, but the list of conditions that are included has been expanded several times. As of mid-2013, there are more than 200 conditions that are covered, including many (but not all) forms of cancer, dementia, organ transplants, autoimmune and other systemic diseases, and traumatic brain injuries.

It is worth noting that if you are approved for SSDI using this program, the Social Security Administration will continue to review your case even after benefits are granted. If the agency believes it made a mistake, it can reverse its decision. However, in that case, you will not have to pay back any benefits you have already received.

How can I apply for the Compassionate Allowance program?

The program uses the regular SSDI application and cases that fall within a compassionate allowance should be subject to the appropriate type of review automatically. However, when you apply for benefits, your doctor and your attorney can work together to make sure that the relevant diagnosis and the tests and other evidence that confirm it are prominently featured in your application. The experienced Cleveland Social Security Disability attorneys at Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A. can help you with your case.