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What is the SSD Compassionate Allowance Initiative?

Although many, if not most, New Jersey residents never expect to become disabled, a great number of people will experience short- or long-term disability at some point in their lives. The Social Security program provides disability benefits for people suffering a total disability that prevents them from working or adjusting to another kind of work because of a serious medical condition. The SSA's definition of disability requires that the disability last for more than one year or ultimately be expected to cause a person's death in order to qualify an applicant for benefits.

In applying for social security disability benefits, people usually have to provide extensive information about their health and specific medical condition in order for the Administration to determine whether or not a person qualifies for benefits. This is often a lengthy process. The Social Security Administration has recognized that some conditions are so severe that they are obviously qualifying conditions. It created the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) Initiative in order to give applicants with certain identified conditions expedited processing.

Currently, there is a specific list of CAL conditions, but the SSA continues to add conditions to this list based on consultation with medical experts, the National Institute of Health, and others. Examples of illnesses that are currently recognized as CAL conditions include many types of cancer, Adult Onset Huntington Disease, Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Mitral Valve Atresia, Tay Sachs Disease and many others.

Although the application process is the same for people with and without CAL conditions, the SSA has simplified the process for applicants with CAL conditions by requiring less paperwork and information. Applicants with CAL conditions no longer have to provide information on their work or education history because the SSA has determined that this information is not necessary to determine eligibility for those people with CAL conditions.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Compassionate Allowances," last accessed Oct. 5, 2014,

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