The Compassionate Allowance Program

A. Definition
“Compassionate Allowance” is the basis of the system used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to fast track the disability applications of people whose medical conditions are so severe that they are sure to qualify for benefits. People with disabilities likely to be fatal simply cannot wait for months (or even years) while their disability claim makes its way through the appeals process. SSA has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions obviously meet disability criteria.

B. General Information
The Compassionate Allowance Program was launched in 2008 by the SSA to expedite certain disability claims. The program originally listed 50 conditions that qualified applicants for a compassionate allowance. Most of these conditions were rare diseases, certain aggressive forms of cancer, and dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (particularly early-onset Alzheimer’s). By January 2014, the list had expanded to include 225 conditions, which range from terminal diseases to mental illnesses. More conditions are being considered, so it’s a good idea to check the list periodically to see if your condition has been added. A complete list of Compassionate Allowance conditions can be found at

The Compassionate Allowance Program was put into effect in large part because disabled people often lose their medical insurance when they lose their ability to work, forcing them to live without medical insurance benefits when they need them.

In most cases, if you qualify for a compassionate allowance, you will not need to do much fighting or appealing. The program is designed to catch those who have qualifying conditions and place them on the fast track to receiving SSA disability benefits without the need for anything beyond the initial application process and a relatively small amount of medical data. You can receive a positive award decision in as little as 10 days from when you first filed your application.

To date, almost 200,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this fast-track disability process.

C. Qualifying for the Compassionate Allowance Program
Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits. If you are found to have a condition that qualifies you for the program, you will be notified. The approval process will then take only a few days, as opposed to the lengthy process most SSA disability applicants must go through

Your medical records need to support your claim, but if you are found to have a Compassionate Allowance condition, you will qualify for SSA disability benefits. However, it can take weeks or months for medical providers to send records to the SSA, and this can hold up even a Compassionate Allowance claim. If you can submit some medical records to prove your diagnosis (such as a biopsy report for cancer) with your claim, this can help fast track your application.

While the Compassionate Allowance Program allows a disability determination to be made more quickly, recipients who qualify under Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) still have to wait five months after their disability onset date to begin receiving benefits, and 24 months after their onset date before Medicare benefits begin.

Your representative can provide you with more information about the Compassionate Allowance Program and help you determine whether your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration.