Terminal illness for SSDI qualificationYes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has the TERI program. It is for people with terminal illnesses. Applications flagged as TERI cases are expedited. TERI applicants may start to receive Social Security disability (SSD) benefits sooner. Also, SSA treats these files “with special sensitivity.” Letters sent to applicants do not use “terminal” or “terminal illness.”

You cannot apply directly for TERI. Rather, it is up to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to flag your file. When filling out your SSD application, you can describe your terminal illness. Present your best case to expedite your benefit approval. This can include documentation from your doctor or another health professional. 

How SSA Defines Terminal Illnesses

The SSA determines TERI eligibility based on the situation and condition. First, there must be an allegation or diagnosis that the illness is terminal. This includes conditions like ALS or AIDS. Hospice care can justify a TERI-flagged case too. 

According to the SSA, an illness is terminal if the “impairment is untreatable.” It is “expected to end in death.” Many conditions may qualify as terminal illnesses. Once a claim receives a TERI flag, “each step in the process” is expedited. Only DDS can remove this case flag.

Examples of Terminal Conditions

The SSA lists several terminally ill conditions. These may qualify as TERI cases. 

  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
  • Chronic pulmonary or heart failure requiring continuous home oxygen and personal caregivers
  • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device
  • Metastatic cancer
  • Stage IV cancer
  • Inoperable or unresectable cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • AML (acute myelogenous leukemia)
  • ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Coma for at least 30 days
  • Currently receiving hospice care
  • Waiting for a heart, lung, live or bone marrow transplant

The above list is not exhaustive. This should, though, illustrate what may qualify as a TERI case. Consult with a disability law attorney to best assess your situation.

How Terminal Illness Affects Your SSD Application

You cannot apply for the TERI program. The SSA does not tell applicants if they are being considered. They also don’t say whether they’ve flagged it as a TERI case. Inclusion in the TERI program can be opaque.

Having a terminal illness does not change your SSD eligibility. The SSA can still deny your claim. You might not meet the Blue Book criteria. Or, the SSA may believe you can still work. The only difference with TERI is they expedite processing. You will likely learn sooner whether they’ve approved or denied your application. 

The five-month waiting period still applies to TERI cases. During this period, applicants do not receive SSDI benefits. As part of the approval process, a medical consultant will review the file. The TERI flag may be added at this time.

TERI Cases Versus Compassionate Allowances

The criteria for Compassionate Allowance cases (CAL) are not identical to TERI cases. Not all CAL cases qualify for TERI. The same is true with Quick Disability Determination (QDD). The main feature of TERI cases is terminal illness. QDD and CAL cases may not imply a terminal illness. There is overlap in these programs, though.

As a result, your SSD claim may qualify for one or more of these programs. If you are eligible for more than one program, your chances of a faster decision improve. The CAL program makes it easier for SSA to identify qualifying cases. These conditions may not be terminal. A faster decision means benefits can begin sooner too.

The SSA provides a complete list of CAL conditions on its website. Examples include brain disorders, childhood disorders, and cancer. Rare conditions may be eligible too.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

With a terminal illness, time is of the essence. You can’t wait around for SSA approval. You need the benefits now. When you work with an experienced Social Security lawyer, they can review your application. They can ensure it is complete and accurate. This can reduce delays and denials. 

Let our experienced Massachusetts law firm take a look at your file. We can look into sourcing the medical forms and statements. These can clearly establish your medical condition. We can help present the most compelling case possible to the SSA. This can help expedite your application as a TERI case. And this means you can start receiving much-needed SSD benefits sooner.  

Request a Free Consultation Today

Managing a terminal illness is stressful enough. We can help lift some of the burden of applying for Social Security disability. The system can be complicated and we can help answer any questions you may have. Call our office at 508-283-5500 or toll-free at 888-904-6847 to book a free consultation today. You can also get in touch with us by filling out our online contact form. Let us evaluate your case and help you get the benefits and coverage you need. 

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