The seventh in a series of Social Security Compassionate Allowance hearings will take place on March 16 in Baltimore, Maryland. The focus of this public outreach hearing will be on autoimmune disease.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Our immune systems protect our bodies from invading microorganisms that cause disease. Basically, our immune systems are networked to attack and destroy to keep us healthy. However, there are times when the immune system malfunctions and attacks the wrong things. Basically, it turns on itself, attacking the body’s own cells, organs or tissues. This overactive misfire causes more than 80 illnesses that can damage many organs (systemic autoimmune disease) or just one organ or tissue (localized autoimmune disease).
Some commonly accepted systemic autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and scleroderma. Localized autoimmune diseases include Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis. A person can also have more than one autoimmune disease. These are chronic conditions that have no cure. Though some conditions can be treated to control symptoms and can even temporarily subside, others can worsen and can extensively impair a person’s vitality and strength and become life-threatening. Also, women are three times more susceptible than men to autoimmune disease. It is ranked among the ten leading causes of death in women.
What Compassionate Allowance Means to the Chronically Ill
Social Security has a very strict process for determining if someone is disabled. A person must have a health condition that is so severe it is preventing them from working to earn substantial gainful activity ($1,000 a month) for a year or more or could result in death.
For people who have impairing medical conditions that do not fully meet SSA’s strict disability standards, it can take months to reach a decision on their disability claim.
However, people identified with very severe medical conditions that clearly meet SSA’s definition of disability should not have to wait. So, SSA fast-tracks their claims through the disability determination process in order for them to get their disability benefits as soon as possible. These are Compassionate Allowance cases.
The public outreach hearings, such as the one for autoimmune disease this month, is helping to identify more conditions for Compassionate Allowance. The current list includes 88 conditions. Will autoimmune disease be added to the list?
Hopefully the outcome for this month’s hearing will be good news for the more than 50 million Americans with autoimmune disease who may, one day, need to apply for Social Security disability benefits.