Over 100,000 Americans Died While Waiting for Benefits Despite Compassionate Allowances

exterior of white building with columns

The Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance program is designed to quickly identify and accept claims when the applicant’s disability clearly meets their terms. Since its start in 2008, over 600,000 applicants have been approved. Some applications within this program have been accepted in as little as 10 days.

Even if you are diagnosed with one of their approved conditions, you will have to provide the SSA with medical confirmation. These allowances are reserved for special, extreme cases. Approved conditions are those which are typically severe or fatal in nature. Examples include early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, pancreatic cancer, ALS, and malignant multiple sclerosis.

Within certain conditions, particularly in many types of cancers, a specific type or stage must be identified. The full list of 242 conditions and their criteria can be found here.

If a Compassionate Allowance case is accepted, beneficiaries can begin receiving funds as soon as a few weeks up to two months afterward. This is a huge benefit for those who meet the Compassionate Allowance criteria, as those submitting a regular application don’t see such fast results. Too many waiting applicants have been known to face home evictions, utility shut-offs, and even death.

Efforts still too little, too late

Despite this program, a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that almost 110,000 Americans died while waiting for Social Security benefits from 2008 through 2019. Initially denied benefits, these applicants died either awaiting a decision on their appeal, or for a hearing date. With a median wait time of 506 days in 2019 and 839 days in 2015, it’s no wonder that some people never see their benefits.

In this unfortunate event, family members may have the option of continuing their loved one’s claim even after their death. Recipients can be either parents, children, or spouses of the deceased applicant. There are different and specific criteria these family members must meet, depending on if the loved one’s application was for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability.

Some requirements include living with the deceased applicant at the time of death, as well as the family member’s benefit entitlement status (Hotfelder, n.d.). These criteria can differ greatly in any given situation, and most have a time limit. Because of this, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney if your loved one died while waiting for benefits. In some circumstances, a family member can even start a new application for Disability benefits after their loved one’s death.

Social Security Disability Delays

The SSA has strict criteria on what they consider a disability. Even if you live with a disability, you may not be considered disabled under their terms, let alone qualify for a Compassionate Allowance. The SSA reported that 63% of initial applications were denied in 2019. Your chance of winning an appeal after a requested reconsideration is even worse with a denial rate of 87%. Proving that you’re disabled with medical evidence takes time and effort.

In addition, economic hardships such as the Great Recession brought an increase in applications and appeals. Some experts worry the coronavirus pandemic will only further increase the strain on the Social Security system. In order to prevent this tragedy, certain political figures have called for increased Social Security funding (Picchi, 2020).

Help From an Experienced Social Security Attorney

While hiring an attorney to manage your claim or appeal will not speed up the process, it does increase your chances of an approved application. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found an applicant’s chances of acceptance to increase by three times when they are represented.

If you have received a denial of your benefits or would like help filing an application, contact our office for a free consultation. Call (419) 350-8277 or send a message to speak to an experienced attorney at Schaffer & Associates LPA.


Disability Benefits Center, (n.d.). Social Security Compassionate Allowances. Retrieved August 20, 2020

Disability Benefits Help, (n.d.) Top 5 Things to Know About Compassionate Allowances. Retrieved August 20, 2020

J.D. Hotfelder, Aaron. (n.d.). What Happens to a Social Security Disability Case if the Applicant Dies? Retrieved August 20, 2020

Picchi, Aimee, (August 14, 2020). Almost 110,000 Americans died while waiting for a Social Security disability hearing. Retrieved August 17, 2020

Social Security Administration, (n.d.) Compassionate Allowances. Retrieved August 19, 2020