What you should know about the SSDI Compassionate Allowances program

Certain diseases and medical conditions entitle SSDI claimants to fast tracking of their applications.

The Social Security Administration has a well known history of slow processing of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance. In 2008, the agency unveiled its Compassionate Allowances program, referred to as CAL, to help address this problem. CAL fast tracks SSDI applications for claimants with severe medical conditions from a select group of more than 200 severe impairments chosen after input at public hearings, and from advocates, medical experts and government agencies.

Disability must be based on objective medical evidence and in some cases consideration of other factors that contribute like age, education, work history and skills. CAL conditions are so severe that the SSA only requires medical evidence of the CAL diagnosis for claim approval because CAL impairments are considered obviously disabling even without other kinds of evidence.

CAL conditions include rare diseases, mental conditions like dementias and schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, stroke, heart disease, cancers, autoimmune diseases and more. Some examples:

  • Acute leukemia
  • Angelman syndrome
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Early-onset Alzheimer's disease
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Heart transplant wait list
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Liver cancer
  • Malignant multiple sclerosis
  • Mixed dementias
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Pleural mesothelioma
  • Pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma
  • Rett syndrome
  • Sjogren-Larsson syndrome
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Stiff person syndrome
  • Thyroid cancer

The agency uses technology to flag applications submitted on the basis of disabling CAL conditions for fast tracking, which is very significant for those claimants. The SSA states on its website that CAL applications are processed in weeks as opposed to the usual months or even years. Most CAL applications are approved in less than two weeks and as of September 2015, almost 200,000 CAL applications across the country had been approved since the CAL program's inception, according to an Alabama Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in the Montgomery Advertiser.

The complexity of the SSA's definition of disability contributes to the tendency for delay in processing and approval. Different than how disability is defined in a private disability insurance policy or a workers' compensation program, for purposes of SSDI, a person is disabled if he or she has a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments expected to last at least one year or result in death that prevents him or her from working. (Certain work history requirements also must be met to have earned insurance coverage.)

Anyone disabled from working who is considering applying for SSDI, who has asked for review or appeal of a denial or who is planning to do so should speak with an attorney who regularly represents SSDI claimants as soon as possible, as time can be of the essence in this complex process that contains deadlines. Involving a lawyer can be an immense help in an SSDI case.

With offices in Tucson, Arizona, the lawyers of Brian Clymer, Attorney at Law, represent disabled clients throughout southern Arizona in SSDI applications and appeals.