WASHINGTON (AP) — In an effort to ease the burden of being stricken with a debilitating condition, the Social Security Administration is expanding access to the Compassionate Allowances program.
The program fast-tracks disability claims filed by people who get serious illnesses such as cancer, early-onset Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease — claims that could take months or years to approve in the past.
Today, the agency said it is adding 35 more diseases and conditions to the program, bringing the total to 200.
The program includes some well-known conditions, such as metastatic ovarian breast cancer and acute leukemia.
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The conditions added today are:
- Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
- Adult Onset Huntington Disease.
- Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome.
- Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma.
- Aplastic Anemia.
- Beta Thalassemia Major.
- Bilateral Optic Atrophy- Infantile.
- Caudal Regression Syndrome – Types III and IV.
- Child T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
- Congenital Lymphedema.
- DeSanctis Cacchione Syndrome.
- Dravet Syndrome.
- Endometrial Stromal Sarcoma.
- Erdheim Chester Disease.
- Fatal Familial Insomnia.
- Fryns Syndrome.
- Fulminant Giant Cell Myocarditis.
- Hepatopulmonary Syndrome.
- Hepatorenal Syndrome.
- Jervell and Lange-Nielsen Syndrome.
- Malignant Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor.
- Malignant Germ Cell Tumor.
- MECP2 Duplication Syndrome.
- Menkes Disease – Classic or Infantile Onset Form.
- NFU-1 Mitochondrial Disease.
- Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia.
- Peritoneal Mucinous Carcinomatosis.
- Phelan-McDermid Syndrome.
- Retinopathy of Prematurity – Stage V.
- Roberts Syndrome.
- Severe Combined Immunodeficiency – Childhood.
- Sinonasal Cancer.
- Transplant Coronary Artery Vasculopathy.
- Usher Syndrome – Type I.
While providing faster benefits, the program also is designed to ease the workload of an agency that has been swamped by disability claims since the economic recession a few years ago.
Disability claims are up by more than 20 percent from 2008. The Compassionate Allowances program approves many claims for a select group of conditions within a few days, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said. The program is being expanded Thursday to include a total of 200 diseases and conditions.
Many of the conditions are rare; all of them are so serious that people who suffer from them easily meet the government’s definition of being disabled, Astrue said. With proper documentation, these are relatively easy cases for the agency to decide, too easy to put through the usual time-consuming process that other applicants face, he said.
“Why for someone who is going to die within 15 months do we need 15 years of medical records?” Astrue said in an interview. “If somebody’s got a confirmed diagnosis of ALS, you know that in essence, it’s not only a disability, it’s a death sentence, and there is no use in burdening them with paperwork.”
High demand during the sour economy has made it difficult for Social Security to reduce disability claims backlogs and wait times for decisions. About 3.2 million people have applied for disability benefits this year, up from 2.6 million in 2008, the agency said.
Disability claims usually increase when the economy is bad because people who managed to work even though they had a disability lose their jobs and apply for benefits. Others who have disabilities may not qualify for benefits but apply anyway because they are unemployed and have nowhere else to turn.