Meeting Urgent Needs Through Compassionate Allowances

In March 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) hosted the seventh and final public outreach hearing as part of its effort to improve its list of Compassionate Allowances. These allowances are a list of 88 serious medical conditions the SSA uses to identify situations in which immediate SSDI benefits are necessary.

The List and Its Impact

The list has been compiled based on information presented at public outreach hearings, from public comment during the rulemaking period, and from medical and scientific experts. The goal is to have a quick list of conditions that automatically meet the SSA's definition of disability. The following are a sample of those 88 listed conditions:

  • Breast cancer
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Krabbe Disease (KD)
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
  • Zellweger Syndrome

The SSA initiated compassionate allowances in October 2008 to expedite benefits for conditions so severe they automatically meet Social Security's standards. The compassionate allowances program and other expediting programs allowed the SSA to approve over 100,000 applications involving serious medical conditions in 2010. The SSA hopes to increase that number to 150,000 in 2011 and expand the allowances list to 100 conditions.

Prior Public Outreach Hearings

The first six public outreach hearings addressed cancers, cardiovascular diseases, traumatic brain injury, early-onset Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and rare diseases. The seventh addressed autoimmune diseases. Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue estimates that some form of autoimmune disease affects over 20 million Americans (particularly women and children). The SSA's goal is to reduce the financial burden caused by those conditions by expediting Social Security benefits.

By expediting the often-slow Social Security benefit application process, the SSA is meeting the needs of millions of American men, women and children. By so doing, the SSA saves a significant amount of time and money, and countless lives.