Disability, SSI

Compassionate Allowances Speed Help to People with Severe Disabilities

February 11, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: March 17, 2021

photograph of a man in a wheelchairDisability can happen to anyone. If you suffer from a serious medical condition that prevents you from working, time is of the essence when it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits. Although Social Security is committed to processing disability claims as quickly as possible in all cases, our initial claims process typically takes three to five months.

Because compassion is a cornerstone of our public service commitment, in some cases, we’re able to expedite the application process through our Compassionate Allowances program. Social Security uses Compassionate Allowances to identify people whose medical condition is so severe, they obviously meet our disability standards. Under the Social Security Act, we consider you disabled if you can’t work due to a severe medical condition that is expected to last at least one year, or result in death.

Social Security pays benefits under two programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Our disability program provides benefits and Medicare eligibility to workers with disabilities who paid into the Social Security trust fund through payroll taxes. Under some circumstances, children and family members can receive disability benefits. SSI pays benefits to disabled persons of all ages with limited income and resources. SSI benefits are not paid out of the Social Security trust fund.

Farber’s disease and Tay Sachs disease in children, and advanced pancreatic and ovarian cancer in adults are examples of the 223 conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list. Others include Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which cause rapid brain deterioration in otherwise healthy adults. For a complete list of the Compassionate Allowances conditions, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

The Compassionate Allowances initiative also provides grants to medical researchers to identify other conditions that may qualify for this list. This initiative is just one of many ways Social Security works to help provide you with peace of mind when disability happens. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. Senicca

    typical wait time for SSI is close to 600 days. mine will be 900 before I get a hearing. 10,000 people died in 2017 waiting for SSI.

  2. Wanda W.

    What happens to a person if they never paid into the system?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question, Wanda. Credits are the “building blocks” we use to find out whether you have the minimum amount of covered work to qualify for each type of Social Security benefit. For most people, the minimum number is 40 credits. If you do not have at least 40 credits, you are not currently entitled to a retirement benefit.
      No benefits can be paid if you do not have enough credits.

  3. nora b.

    I have a brother who is a danger to himself and to others he is 70 receives social security. he takes a lot of pain meds he needs to be some place where he will receive 24hr care Help. What can be done???

  4. GLENN P.


    • Ann C.

      Hi, Glenn. We are sorry to hear about your condition. Social Security pays disability benefits to people if they have a medical condition that has prevented them from working or is expected to prevent them from working for at least 12 months. We use the same five-step process to make a decision on each application. You may also find our listing of impairments useful. If you think you are disabled, you can apply online for disability benefits. We hope this is helpful.

  5. Hope J.

    Thanks for sharing great insight on Compassionate Allowances. It is really helpful. Always keep sharing.
    Hope Jacoby

  6. Dr. S.

    I had a representative helping me from Virginia, Portsmouth concerning the benefits I didn’t receive in december.2016 until December 2017.can someone help me get my money that they owe me,for that year,she had started the process but I was in the hospital for 8 3/4 months.thank you u can call 918-630-3327,and also I put in discrimination paper cause they ampited three fingers,when I told my spirituality was to be non ampited and non prescription drugs,I put in human health service complaint with St.francis and Naacp for my human rights,I was surely discriminated against and also Bellingham,was dealing with going Bellingham Bay Family Medicine with haddol being a prescription drug,when I just ask for vitamin supplement because I had large education ,which I finished.

  7. D

    My 65 yr old husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and lising his income . how much will he be penalized for claiming his ss 15 month early

    • Ray F.

      Your husband can use the Retirement Estimator or one of our other benefit Calculators. In his case, he may need to use our Early or Late Retirement Calculator.
      If your husband meets our definition of disability, he could apply for reduced Retirement Benefits and Disability Benefits at the same time. We would pay his retirement benefits while we wait for a medical determination on his disability claim. If approved, we will then make the necessary adjustments to his monthly benefit amount.
      To apply or to make an appointment, please call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks!

  8. Leon s.

    Welfare is the way to go .

  9. Daniel A.

    My son has been having sezuires due to car accident .. He has them all the time. They have denied him s. s three time i think. He cant work he cant drive. Please help him..

  10. Gina R.

    My sister in law was fired because she is too slow at her job and doesn’t understand instructions very well,and gets frustrated easily and has meltdowns. She can’t do simple math. She doesn’t have much of an education even though she went to the 9th grade. I suspect she was on a occupational diploma.
    She will be 29 this month and has a two year old that is drawing from his father but they no longer live together would she be qualified for benefits from her husband even though they live separately?
    Can the social security office send a person for help to determine the severity of a cognitive, learning, communication, developmental delay?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for contacting us, Gina. Your sister in law may be eligible to receive the spouse’s benefit if she is caring for their child who is also receiving benefits.
      There is a limit to the amount we can pay family members. See “Benefits For Your Spouse” for more information.
      We pay disability benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. However, if a person believes they are disabled and meets our definition of disability, we encourage them to apply for disability as soon as they become disabled. You could help your sister in law to apply online, which is quick and easy. She can also apply by calling our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Or She can contact her local Social Security office directly. Please alert our representatives if special accommodations are needed. For more information visit our “Frequently Asked Questions” web page on disability. We hope this information helps!

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