Compassionate Allowances Get Expedited Disability Determinations

Certain illnesses, including many cancers, are eligible for expedited processing if they have been designated as compassionate allowances.

By , M.D.
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides expedited processing for medical conditions that are listed in the "Compassionate Allowances List" (CAL). CAL cases don't involve any special criteria for qualifying for disability benefits. Rather, Compassionate Allowance cases are those involving such severe impairments that the case would always match one of Social Security's disability listings.

How Do I Apply for a Compassionate Allowance?

You don't apply for a Compassionate Allowance specifically. Social Security reviews all disability applications to see whcih ones qualify as compassionate allowances. Compassionate Allowance cases are selected for fast processing based solely on the allegations of the disability claimant (applicant) or of a parent of a child claimant. If the allegations fit the SSA's predictive model that the claim will be able to be approved with minimal objective information (such as a positive biopsy for esophageal cancer), the case is put on a fast track for a decision. It can help to note on the top of your application "Compassionate Allowance claim" -- unless you're applying online.

Compassionate Allowances (CAL) apply to both SSDI and SSI claims. Because minimal objective information is required--proof of the medical condition is sufficient to assume disability--these cases can be allowed (approved) in much less time.

What Medical Evidence Is Required?

The information that Disability Determination Services (DDS, a state agency that makes disability determinations for the SSA) must have is truly nominal—just enough information to establish the correct diagnosis. However, hospitals or treating doctors may take weeks or months to respond to a DDS request for medical records. Therefore, you can speed up processing of your claim by submitting basic medical information along with your application or sending it to the examiner yourself.

The type of medical information you need to submit depends on the nature of your condition. Most CAL cases involve cancer. If you have leukemia or another form of cancer, the most important thing is the biopsy report. Along with a hospital discharge summary or letter from your doctor, that would be sufficient evidence to get a disability approval through the CAL program (if your type and stage of cancer is on the list of CAL conditions).

How Quickly Are Compassionate Allowances Decided?

Unlike many claims, Compassionate Allowance cases are decided within a matter of days rather than months. That is the "compassion" component of the Compassionate Allowances program: the SSA gives them priority. In that sense, these cases are similar to Quick Disability Determination (QDD) cases. However, unlike a QDD claim, a medical consultant is needed to medically assess and sign a CAL case before approval or denial. In all other ways, CAL cases are like regular disability cases. For instance, the five-month waiting period for SSDI claims is not waived by having a compassionate allowance. The waiting period is established by federal law and cannot be reversed by SSA's compassionate allowance initiative.

Other Expedited Social Security Processes

The Social Security Administration also has a program for terminal illnesses that provides for quick disability decisions. Learn more about the terminal illness program (TERI).

Quick Disability Determination is an automated method that Social Security uses to identify and process claims for obvious disabilities. Learn more about Quick Disability Determinations.

Another program, the presumptive disability program, doesn't speed up the decision, but does pay benefits while your claim is being decided. This program is available for SSI only. Learn more about the presumptive disability program.

What Conditions Qualify for Compassionate Allowances?

Here is a complete list of CAL impairments:

Acute Leukemia Malignant Ectomesenchymoma
Adrenal Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent Malignant Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor
Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Malignant Germ Cell Tumor
Adult Onset Huntington Disease Malignant Multiple Sclerosis
Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor
Alexander Disease (ALX) - Neonatal and Infantile Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL)
Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome Maple Syrup Urine Disease
Alobar Holoprosencephaly Marshall-Smith Syndrome
Alpers Disease Mastocytosis - Type IV
Alpha Mannosidosis - Type II and III MECP2 Duplication Syndrome
Alstrom Syndrome Medulloblastoma
Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome
Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia Menkes Disease - Classic or Infantile Onset Form
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Merkel Cell Carcinoma - with metastases
Anaplastic Adrenal Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
Anaplastic Ependymoma Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD) - Late Infantile
Angelman Syndrome Metastatic Endometrial Adenocarcinoma
Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma Microvillus Inclusion Disease – Child
Angiosarcoma Mitral Valve Atresia
Aortic Atresia Mixed Dementias
Aplastic Anemia Mowat-Wilson Syndrome
Astrocytoma - Grade III and IV MPS I, formerly known as Hurler Syndrome
Ataxia Telangiectasia MPS II, formerly known as Hunter Syndromeerly known as Hurler Syndrome
Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor MPS III, formerly known as Sanfilippo Syndrome
Batten Disease Mucosal Malignant Melanoma
Beta Thalassemia Major Multicentric Castleman Disease
Bilateral Optic Atrophy- Infantile Multiple System Atrophy
Bilateral Retinoblastoma Myelodysplastic Syndrome with Excess Blasts
Bladder Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable Myoclonic Epilepsy with Ragged Red Fibers Syndrome
Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy
Breast Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis
CACH--Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation - Types 1 and 2
Calciphylaxis NFU-1 Mitochondrial Disease
Canavan Disease (CD) Nicolaides-Baraister Syndrome
Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Site Niemann-Pick Disease (NPD) - Type A
Cardiac Amyloidosis- AL Type Niemann-Pick Disease-Type C
Caudal Regression Syndrome - Types III and IV Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia
CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - with metastases to the hilar nodes or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
Cerebro Oculo Facio Skeletal (COFS) Syndrome NUT Carcinoma
Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis Obliterative Bronchiolitis
Charlevoix-Saguenay Spastic Ataxia Ohtahara Syndrome
Child Lymphoblastic Lymphoma Oligodendroglioma Brain Cancer - Grade III
Child Lymphoma Ornithine Transcarbamylase (OTC) Deficiency
Child Neuroblastoma - with distant metastases or recurrent Orthochromatic Leukodystrophy with Pigmented Glia
Cholangiocarcinoma Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) - Type II
Chondrosarcoma - with multimodal therapy Osteosarcoma, formerly known as Bone Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
Choroid Plexus Carcinoma Ovarian Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction Pallister-Killian Syndrome
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) - Blast Phase Pancreatic Cancer
CIC-rearranged Sarcoma Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration
Coffin-Lowry Syndrome Paraneoplastic Pemphigus
Congenital Lymphedema Patau Syndrome (Trisomy 13)
Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy Pearson Syndrome
Congenital Zika Syndrome Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Classic Form
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Connatal Form
Corticobasal Degeneration Pericardial Mesothelioma
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) – Adult Peripheral Nerve Cancer - metastatic or recurrent
Cri du Chat Syndrome Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Degos Disease - Systemic Peritoneal Mucinous Carcinomatosis
DeSanctis Cacchione Syndrome Perry Syndrome
Desmoplastic Mesothelioma Pfeiffer Syndrome - Types II and III
Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors Phelan-McDermid Syndrome
Dravet Syndrome Pineoblastoma - Childhood
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy- Adult Pitt Hopkins Syndrome
Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease Pleural Mesothelioma
Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18) Pompe Disease – Infantile
Eisenmenger Syndrome Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia
Endometrial Stromal Sarcoma Posterior Cortical Atrophy
Endomyocardial Fibrosis Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma
Ependymoblastoma (Child Brain Cancer) Primary Effusion Lymphoma
Erdheim Chester Disease Primary Omental Cancer
Esophageal Cancer Primary Peritoneal Cancer
Esthesioneuroblastoma Primary Progressive Aphasia
Ewing Sarcoma Progressive Bulbar Palsy
Farber's Disease (FD) – Infantile Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
Fatal Familial Insomnia Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Prostate Cancer - Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases
Fibrolamellar Cancer Pulmonary Atresia
Follicular Dendritic Cell Sarcoma - metastatic or recurrent Pulmonary Kaposi Sarcoma
FOXG1 Syndrome Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma
Friedreichs Ataxia (FRDA) Renal Amyloidosis - AL Type
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Picks Disease -Type A – Adult Renpenning Syndrome
Fryns Syndrome Retinopathy of Prematurity - Stage V
Fucosidosis - Type 1 Rett (RTT) Syndrome
Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy Revesz Syndrome
Fulminant Giant Cell Myocarditis Rhabdomyosarcoma
Galactosialidosis - Early and Late Infantile Types Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata
Gallbladder Cancer Richter Syndrome
Gaucher Disease (GD) - Type 2 Roberts Syndrome
Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Disease Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome
Giant Axonal Neuropathy Salivary Cancers
Glioblastoma Multiforme (Adult Brain Cancer) Sandhoff Disease
Glioma Grade III and IV Sarcomatoid Carcinoma of the Lung - Stages II - IV
Glutaric Acidemia - Type II Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma
GM1 Gangliosidosis - Infantile and Juvenile Forms Schindler Disease - Type 1
Head and Neck Cancers - with distant metastasis or inoperable or unresectable SCN8A Related Epilepsy with Encephalopathy
Heart Transplant Graft Failure Seckel Syndrome
Heart Transplant Wait List - 1A/1B Secondary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain
Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) - Familial Type Severe Combined Immunodeficiency - Childhood
Single Ventricle
Hepatoblastoma Sinonasal Cancer
Hepatopulmonary Syndrome Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome
Skin Malignant Melanoma with Metastases
Hepatorenal Syndrome Small Cell Cancer (Large Intestine, Prostate or Thymus)
Histiocytosis Syndromes Small Cell Cancer of the Female Genital Tract
Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome Small Cell Lung Cancer
Hydranencephaly Small Intestine Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
Hypocomplementemic Urticarial Vasculitis Syndrome Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome
Hypophosphatasia Perinatal (Lethal) and Infantile Onset Types Soft Tissue Sarcoma - with distant metastases or recurrent
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) - Types 0 and 1
I Cell Disease Spinal Nerve Root Cancer-metastatic or recurrent
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Spinocerebellar Ataxia
Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma Stiff Person Syndrome
Infantile Free Sialic Acid Storage Disease Stomach Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD) Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis
Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) SYNGAP1-related NSID
Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma Tabes Dorsalis
Jervell and Lange-Nielsen Syndrome Tay Sachs Disease - Infantile Type
Joubert Syndrome Taybi-Linder Syndrome
Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa - Lethal Type Tetrasomy 18p
Juvenile Onset Huntington Disease Thanatophoric Dysplasia - Type 1
Kidney Cancer - inoperable or unresectable The ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex
Kleefstra Syndrome Thyroid Cancer
Krabbe Disease (KD) – Infantile Transplant Coronary Artery Vasculopathy
Kufs Disease - Type A and B Tricuspid Atresia
Large Intestine Cancer - with distant metastasis or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent Trisomy 9
Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy
Leber Congenital Amaurosis Ureter Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
Leigh's Disease Usher Syndrome - Type I
Leiomyosarcoma Ventricular Assist Device Recipient - Left, Right, or Biventricular
Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis Walker Warburg Syndrome
Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (LNS) Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome
Lewy Body Dementia Wolman Disease
Liposarcoma - metastatic or recurrent X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease
Lissencephaly X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy
Lowe Syndrome Xeroderma Pigmentosum
Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis - Grade III Zellweger Syndrome

Talk to a Disability Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Boost Your Chance of Being Approved

Get the Compensation You Deserve

Our experts have helped thousands like you get cash benefits.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you