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What To Know About The SSI Compassionate Allowance List

Last updated: August 6, 2023

In certain cases, where the disorders the claimants face are grave and require urgent assistance, the Social Security Administration expedites their claims and quickly releases the relevant payments. Housing, health insurance, and income are all crucial necessities for people experiencing poverty or at risk of homelessness.

The disability benefits the SSA provides, such as SSI and SSDI, facilitate access to housing and healthcare by providing income and health insurance. The mechanism used by the SSA to deliver this assistance in such circumstances is known as Compassionate Allowances.

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Compassionate Allowances List

The Compassionate Allowances List (CAL) helps the SSA to immediately recognize and expedite disability with conditions that conform to the SSA's Listing of Impairments and are extremely disabling. The CAL initiative covers over 200 conditions developed by the SSA using information from various sources. These sources include information from the general public, advocacy group outreach, doctor and scientist consultations, and NIH research. As part of determining whether a condition meets the definition of disability, the SSA considers many factors.

In contrast with the SSDI and SSI programs, CAL does not have a separate application or form and does not exist independently of them. The SSA will expedite the application process for individuals with CAL conditions to process their claims for disability benefits quickly.

Medical conditions that qualify for compassionate allowances must meet Social Security's criteria for disability benefits first. Some of these disorders, including cancer, brain and developmental disorders, and other rare diseases, may also affect children. For individuals with the most serious disabilities, CAL helps reduce waiting times for disability determinations. 

Applicants who qualify for Compassionate Allowances have diseases or conditions that meet Social Security's statutory definition of disability. For both the SSDI and SSI programs, the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates CAL conditions using the same rules.

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SSI Compassionate Allowance List

When providing benefits for disability to people who face certain disabilities and diseases, the SSA generated the Compassionate Allowance List in 2008. The medical conditions included on the Compassionate Allowance List are so intense that if a claimant is found to have one of these disabilities, the SSA automatically considers them immediately eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits.

New medical conditions are added to the Compassionate Allowance List from time to time. This list features severe conditions such as some forms of cancer, genetic disorders that are very rare, and regressive neurological disorders. 

'Dire Need' Explained

Disability claimants whose disability hearing is pending and either do not have access to or the resources to obtain shelter, medicine, and food are considered critical cases by the Social Security Administration. Claims such as these are considered to be "dire need" cases. 

Applicants can request expedited processing of their claim from the SSA by writing a letter of dire need. The SSA is informed of the claimant's severe disabilities or conditions through the dire need letter, and a case is made about how the normal hearing, processing, and approval time may be disastrous to the well-being and the health of the claimant. 

No specific evidence is required from the applicant's side to support their assertion of a dire need. SSA may request proof of the claim if the agency finds any proof that indicates otherwise. Financial hardship claims will not be categorized as "dire need" by the SSA. If it does so, the agency cannot aid vulnerable claimants.

If you don't have the means to finance your basic living needs, you should alert the SSA to your situation. You can notify your local SSA field office if your situation worsens after you submit your application. Disability claims may no longer be classified as dire need cases by the SSA if the claimant's living situation improves after they have applied or are designated as dire need cases.

How Long Before Approval and Payment?

There is no special requirement, application form, or sections to be filled in the regular SSI or SSDI applications to be considered for a Compassionate Allowance. It is common for the Compassionate Allowance conditions to be identified during the application phase (for SSI and SSDI) when the SSA reviews the claimants' standard online applications for specific CAL-related keywords and conditions. 

The SSA can take up to a few months to approve your application once it is flagged as a CAL case by its review process. For your condition to be flagged by the SSA, the condition mentioned in your application must be listed as a disability/disease eligible for CAL by the SSA, or it must be mentioned as a severe condition that merits dire need in your application. The appropriate medical documentation will need to be provided by you or your doctors to be approved. 

Suppose you are suffering from a CAL qualifying condition but have not been approved for CAL quickly. In that case, you can contact the Social Security Administration to find out if your application is being subject to expedited processing or not.

In the absence of CAL or expedited processing of your application due to the dire needs you have demonstrated to the SSA, your disability benefits application might take two or more years to be approved. Several factors can delay your Compassionate Allowance, including inadequate medical evidence or the need for further medical testing to determine whether you satisfy the requirements of CAL. This is why we recommend that applicants carefully compile their information and documents at their earliest convenience.

The SSI Compassionate Allowance List provides expedited application processing and dispatching benefits to claimants that demonstrate dire need. The SSA has special measures to identify and flag CAL conditions from the regular stream of applications. Claimants can complete separate applications to be considered for the CAL initiative. CAL recipients automatically qualify from the regular pool of SSDI and SSI applicants.

Applying for disability benefits tends to be an overwhelming process for most people. Check out Disability Help's Social Security Disability section for more information on disability-related matters. If you are applying for disability, read our article on useful tips you should know when filing for disability.

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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