Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Can a Specific Medical Problem get you Automatically Approved for Disability?

When I first heard of fast tracking certain social security disability and SSI disability cases based on claimants having specific impairments, I was very skeptical. After all, how can you gauge the severity of any medical condition without first gathering, reading, and evaluating a disability claimant's medical records?

Think about it. Even for individuals who have just suffered a heart attack or a stroke, there is no automatic approval for SSD or SSI, just as there is no award for temporary disability through the social security administration. In all cases, a claimant has always been required to meet the social security definition of disability, in all its aspects.

In the case of stroke and heart attack, claimants have been required to prove (via their medical evidence) that their residual functional capacity (remaining ability to engage in work activity), months after the event, is insufficient to allow them to engage in work that delivers a sustainable wage.

All of this may be changing, however. The Compassionate Allowance Initiative would allow the social security administration to identify certain cases in which specific impairments are present. When present, a confirmed diagnosis of the impairment would lead to a claimant being approved for disability in either the social security disability or SSI program (or in both programs if the claim is concurrent).

What conditions will the compassionate allowance initiative include? According to one source, it may include acute leukemia and pancreatic cancer.

Will this type of program really save claimants a significant amount of time in the processing of their cases? At the initial claim level (the disability application level), this is a bit debatable. After all, a disability examiner would still be required to obtain the basic medical evidence that confirms the alleged impairment. And it is the process of gathering records that typically delays a case.

However, cases that are approved at the initial claim level via this program would immediately be taken out of the loop of having to go through the reconsideration appeal process and then the disability hearing appeal process, two components of the
system that, taken together, often consume over two years of time (time which most applicants for disability cannot afford and for whom the unreasonable wait is financially devastating).

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