Expedited processing available for more conditions

The Social Security Disability evaluation process can be rigorous and lengthy, as any Chicago Social Security attorney can attest. However, for certain severe medical conditions, the Social Security Administration offers expedited claim processing and reduced evidentiary requirements through the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. In 2014, the SSA added 25 conditions to the existing list of 200 CAL conditions.

Invariably disabling conditions

The CAL program aims to streamline the application process for people who are clearly disabled. The conditions included on the CAL list are almost always found disabling under SSA criteria. In January 2014, the SSA reported that nearly 200,000 people with severe conditions had qualified for expedited benefits through the program.

CAL conditions are chosen based on opinions from medical professionals, feedback from the public and input from advocacy groups. New conditions are added to the list every year. The updated 2014 list includes several cancers, including prostate cancer. Disorders affecting the digestive, immune and neurological systems are also included on the new list.

People who suffer from conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list still must wait until five months after the onset of the condition to apply for benefits. At that point, the application is fast-tracked, and benefits can be awarded quickly if the applicant meets certain SSA criteria.

Compassionate Allowances applications

People seeking SSD benefits must meet the SSA’s basic medical and non-medical requirements, regardless of whether they suffer from CAL conditions. To qualify for benefits, an individual must have an adequate earnings record. Furthermore, the individual cannot be engaging in substantial gainful activity, which the SSA defines as follows:

  • Work yielding monthly income greater than $1,070 in 2014 or $1,090 in 2015 — this is the standard for most people seeking disability benefits.
  • Work with monthly income over $1,800 in 2014 or $1,820 in 2015 — this limit applies only to individuals with statutory blindness.
  • Work that involves significant activity or should be compensated above the SGA level — the SSA may find that people earning less than the SGA amounts listed above are still engaging in SGA.

The applicant’s disabilities must prevent him or her from performing SGA in any capacity, from a previous job to a new field.

An applicant who suffers from a CAL condition should identify the condition as such in the application. Although medical evidence requirements are minimal for CAL cases, applicants should also provide a diagnosis from an acceptable medical source to establish the legitimacy of the condition.

Applicants with CAL conditions may receive a decision in as little as 10 days. However, issues with medical documentation can slow the decision process. Applicants can reduce this risk by providing all relevant medical records with their applications.