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How the SSA's CAL initiative helps those with grave illnesses

One of the unfortunate realities about seeking benefits either through the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs is that decisions can sometimes take months or even years if an applicant exercises their various options for appeal.

While there is sometimes no way around this, questions naturally arise as to what, if anything, can be done when an applicant for either SSDI benefits or SSI benefits has been diagnosed with an incredibly serious condition and time is of the essence.

The good news is that the Social Security Administration has recognized the hardship that can result in these situations and, in response, launched what is known as the Compassionate Allowances initiative.

In general, the SSA considers someone disabled for the purposes of either SSDI benefits or SSI benefits under the following conditions:

  • The applicant cannot perform the same work as they once did.
  • The applicant cannot adjust to other types of work due to the medical condition(s); and
  • The disabling medical condition either has lasted or is anticipated to last for at least one year, or result in death.

Where the CAL initiative comes into play is that it simply presumes that applicants diagnosed with any of the grave illnesses found on the CAL list, from acute leukemia to Zellweger syndrome, would clearly satisfy the agency's criteria for having a disability. As such, their applications are expedited, meaning a decision on benefits is typically rendered in just a few weeks.

Some of the other tangible benefits of the CAL initiative are that applicants diagnosed with CAL conditions are not required to fill out any sort of specialized forms (enrollment is automatic), or complete either the education or work history sections on the benefits application.

Some other important points to keep in mind about the CAL initiative, include:

  • No special notice is provided by the SSA when applications are fast-tracked under the CAL initiative.
  • A diagnosis of a CAL condition does not make an applicant eligible for additional benefits.
  • The SSA updates the list of CAL conditions on an annual basis after careful consultation with the National Institute of Health, medical experts and other interested parties.

If you have questions about applying for disability benefits or your options if your application has been denied, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more.

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