Social Security Disability Benefits for Terminal Illness (TERI) Patients

Claimants with a terminal illness can get their Social Security Disability claim approved faster than normal claims.

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When a person with a terminal illness applies for SSDI or SSI disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will process the application quickly, and with special sensitivity to the patient's emotional state. For instance, a terminal patient will not be notified that his or her file will be processed under the terminal illness program (TERI).

How Are TERI Cases Identified?

Terminal illness cases are those that are expected to result in the applicant's death. An applicant doesn't have to state on the application that the illness is terminal for it to be expedited under the TERI program. A field office representative or a claims examiner at the DDS (Disability Determination Services) can send a claim into the TERI program when a doctor, family member, or friend states that that the illness is expected to result in death or when the claimant is receiving inpatient hospice care or home hospice care. In addition, if the patient has applied for disability on account of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), the patient is brought into the TERI system.

What Medical Conditions Are Eligible for TERI?

The following medical conditions are eligible for TERI treatment, but this list is not exhaustive; any terminal illness can qualify for TERI expedited processing.

  • Cancer that is metastatic, Stage IV, recurrent following therapy, or inoperable.
  • Cancer of the esophagus, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, or brain.
  • Small cell or oat cell lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) or acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).
  • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device.
  • Chronic heart failure or pulmonary failure, requiring continuous oxygen and caregivers.
  • Comatose for 30 days or more.
  • Newborn with a fatal genetic or congenital defect.
  • Awaiting a liver, lung, heart, or bone marrow transplant.

The disability examiner at DDS must consult with a medical consultant before making a TERI determination, as with any regular disability case.

Other Expedited Disability Determination Programs

Some cases that are in the TERI system could also qualify for expedited treatment through the Presumptive Disability program for SSI (such as AIDS or ALS or any patient in hospice), or the Compassionate Allowances program (many cancers can be expedited through either the TERI program or the Compassionate Allowances program), or the Quick Disability Determination program (QDD). 

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LA-NOLO3:DRU.1.6.3.20141021.28794