Disappearing Clock in a Terminal Illness Patient's HandsThe Social Security Administration handles medical conditions that are untreatable and likely to result in death differently than other permanent disabilities. Terminal illness cases, known as TERI cases for Social Security disability purposes, are processed faster so that the applicant may receive a disability determination sooner.

Types of TERI Cases

Any terminal illness may qualify for TERI processing. TERI cases include, but are not limited to:

  • ALS (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • AIDS (also known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
  • Waiting for a heart, heart and lung, lung, liver, or bone marrow transplant
  • Chronic pulmonary or heart failure that requires continuous home oxygen and prevents a person from caring for their personal needs
  • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device
  • Metastatic cancer
  • Stage IV cancer
  • Cancer that is persistent or recurrent following initial therapy
  • Inoperable or unresectable cancer
  • Esophageal cancer (cancer of the esophagus)
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer (cancer of the pancreas)
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Small cell or oat cell lung cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Being in a coma for 30 days or more

Additionally, Social Security disability applicants who receive hospice care may have their disability applications expedited through the TERI program.

How TERI Cases Work

Disability applicants with terminal illnesses have the same eligibility requirements as applicants with other medical conditions. While eligibility remains the same, the processing of cases for terminally ill applicants is different than it is for other disability applicants.

Social Security disability applicants cannot designate their own cases for expedited TERI processing, but they should make sure their application clearly states that they suffer from a terminal illness.

The Social Security Administration does not inform applicants that their applicants are being processed through the TERI program. However, applicants with terminal illnesses may benefit from TERI processing, which begins when:

  • A field office identifies and flags an application as a TERI case. Review of the case should be expedited for no later than the following business day. The claim should be hand-carried to the disability examiner assigned to the case.
  • DDS identifies and flags an application as a TERI case. DDS controls must show the name of the examiner and DDS must notify the field office by telephone or electronic means so that the case may be expedited.

The disability examiner assigned to the case must use telephone, fax, or electronic means to handle any follow up on the case so that a determination can be made as quickly as possible.

Once a TERI designation is attached to a case, the designation remains unless a mistake has been made and specific procedures are followed to remove the TERI designation. The Social Security Administration cannot remove a TERI designation because of a failure to cooperate or for any other non-medical reason. Instead, all cases where an applicant has “a medical condition that is untreatable and expected to result in death” must retain the TERI designation.

How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Case Moving

Expedited and fast often mean different things. While the Social Security Administration may expedite the processing of cases for terminally ill applicants, delays and application denials still occur for people with terminal medical conditions.

Experienced Social Security disability attorneys can help prevent application delays and denials by submitting complete and accurate disability applications that include a medical source statement, medical testing results, and progress notes that clearly establish your medical condition.

Please contact our experienced Boston area Social Security disability lawyers today if you or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal illness and you are seeking Social Security disability benefits. We represent clients in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and we will fight to get you the Social Security disability benefits you’ve earned while you spend time with family and friends and on the things that are most important to you. Call us or reach out to us through this website today to schedule your free, no-obligation legal consultation.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


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