Patient on kidney dialysis machineWhen you can’t work because of a disabling medical impairment, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, applying for SSDI and getting approved for the benefits you need and deserve is a long and grueling process that can take months and sometimes even years. Not only does the Social Security Administration (SSA) impose a mandatory five-month waiting period from the onset of your disability until you can start collecting payments, but the wait can actually be much longer due to a backlog of claims.

If you applied for SSDI, but your disability got worse before you received a decision, keeping the SSA informed of changes in your medical condition is vital, as a particularly severe, worsening, or terminal diagnosis may qualify your claim for an expedited review and determination. Here’s what you need to know, including how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish and help you get approved for much-needed benefits as quickly as possible.

SSA Programs That Allow for Expediting SSDI Claims 

The SSA has three main programs or initiatives that can speed up the determinations process for direly ill individuals, helping them get approved for payments faster. These are the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative, Presumptive Disability (PD) payments, and the TERI program for terminal illnesses. Here’s a brief overview of these crucial initiatives, what they do, and examples of conditions that qualify.

Compassionate Allowances (CAL)

The Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL initiative, allows the SSA to deliver faster SSDI determinations to individuals with especially severe disabilities. The program uses cutting-edge technology to identify diseases and other medical conditions that clearly meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and make the applicant eligible for benefits. More than 200 conditions qualify for expedited processing under the Compassionate Allowances program, including:

  • Adult-Onset Huntington Disease
  • Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Malignant Multiple Sclerosis
  • Nut Carcinoma
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Stiff Person Syndrome
  • Thyroid Cancer

Presumptive Disability (PD)

Presumptive Disability, or PD payments, allow SSDI applicants with easily identifiable, qualifying conditions to collect “presumptive” benefit payments for up to six months while SSA Disability Determination Services (DDS) processes their application. The local Social Security field office, or in some cases DDS, grants Presumptive Disability payments based on the likelihood of your eventual approval for SSDI benefits. However, even if your application is ultimately denied, applicants approved for PD payments are not required to pay them back. Examples of conditions that commonly qualify for Presumptive Disability payments include:

  • Total blindness
  • Total deafness
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Amputation of legs at the hip
  • End-stage renal disease requiring dialysis
  • Terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less

Terminal Illnesses (TERI)

SSDI applications based on conditions expected to result in imminent death can be flagged by a Social Security field office representative – or a DDS case examiner – and brought into the TERI program for expedited processing. If you’re receiving inpatient or home hospice care, applied for SSDI for ALS or AIDS, or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, your case will likely qualify for TERI.  

Keeping the SSA Informed of Changes to Your Condition 

If your condition has changed or worsened after applying for SSDI, it’s critical that you inform the SSA and submit additional supporting medical evidence (from acceptable medical sources) as soon as possible. Mail your medical documentation to your local SSA office or drop it off in person if you haven’t been assigned a DDS claims examiner. However, if your claim has been assigned to an examiner, you can submit the evidence to them directly, using the contact information provided in the notice you received from the SSA.

Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application

Applying for SSDI can be complicated – and having your condition worsen before you’ve received a determination certainly doesn’t make matters any simpler. When you’re disabled and counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished SSDI attorneys offer the skilled guidance you need to secure the benefits you deserve.

Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered. Want to learn more? Request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer