The Compassionate Allowance Program was established to help expedite Social Security claims for claimants who suffer from certain severe medical conditions, but flaws in this program are causing unnecessary delays. In response, the Government Accountability Office has highlighted a number of challenges and issued recommendations for the SSD program.

About the Compassionate Allowance Program

The Compassionate Allowance program was established in 2008. It gives priority status to individuals who have certain medical conditions, placing them ahead of other claimants on the waiting list. There are over 200 conditions that qualify for the program. Many of these conditions are terminal in nature. The average claimant waits 605 days for a Social Security disability hearing. The Compassionate Allowance program intends to speed up this process.

Improvements Needed

Improvements are drastically needed to make the Compassionate Allowance program more consistent and accurate, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report highlighted flaws with the system that have caused first-time applicants to be overlooked and their claims delayed.

In recent years, the Social Security Administration has relied on advocates to highlight claimants’ qualification for this program. However, since some claimants do not have advocates, their eligibility is easily overlooked. Additionally, the report concluded that the Social Security Administration lacks clear and consistent criteria for designating conditions included in this program. The administration largely relies on software that looks for keywords in claims. If a claimant uses a different term or misspells the condition, the application may not be properly flagged. Although the administration has provided some guidance to workers to manually correct errors, it is not clear when workers should make such corrections. Without such guidance, workers may make decisions that cause delays for eligible applicants.

The impairment summaries that describe conditions on the Compassionate Allowance program are also outdated. About one-third of these summaries are five years old or even older. Advocates suggest that the summaries be updated every one to three years. Outdated information can result in making disability determinations that are not in line with current medicine.

Recommendations to Improve the Program

The GAO recommends that the Social Security Administration develop a procedure to gather information in a systematic manner regarding potential Compassionate Allowance claims. Additionally, it recommends that guidance is clarified in manual corrections. A Social Security disability attorney can also take measures to highlight a claimant’s eligibility for the program.