Retirement & Financial Planning Report

The Social Security Administration has expanded the scope of its compassionate allowances program, a fast-track toward approval of disability claims.

The Social Security program has a more stringent definition of what qualifies as a disability than do the FERS and CSRS systems: the applicant must be unable to work due to a severe medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. However, the program has suffered from backlogs and resulting delays in adjudicating claims for years.

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In the compassionate allowances program, the SSA has identified conditions that are most likely to be approved for disability benefits, such as pancreatic cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and acute leukemia. It recently added five to that list and said it is open to recommendations for including others.

The number of applicants approved under the program recently crossed 500,000, the agency said.