SSA Hastens Actions on Cancer

Article excerpt

A Vietnam veteran and his family might have expected more from their country as his condition deteriorated from advanced esophageal cancer. But Social Security Administration's (SSA) new Compassionate Allowances initiative promises to deliver hope to future sufferers of many debilitating illnesses.

At age 57, the veteran continued in his job as a maintenance worker at a housing complex for seniors because he had no other option for supporting his wife and children. His wife later told a social worker at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that she and her husband decided not to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance because the process would have taken too long to do any good. "He declined so fast," his wife told the social worker. Dana-Farber president Edward J. Benz recounted this story at an SSA hearing in Washington, D.C, last April. In October, SSA announced its new initiative to fast-track cases such as this veteran's.

"Getting benefits quickly to people with the most severe medical conditions is both the right and the compassionate thing to do," said Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue. The agency's Compassionate Allowances program, he explained, will expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that they obviously meet Social Security's standards. "This initiative will allow us to make decisions on these cases in a matter of days, rather than months or years," he added.

The new program initially applies to those having one of 25 cancers or 25 rare diseases, and SSA plans to add others. …