Because of the urgency involved when handling disability applications for people with terminal illnesses, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a method to quickly identify and process what the agency calls "TERI cases."
The TERI program allows Social Security to award benefits for people with terminal illnesses quickly, and with special sensitivity—for example, the SSA doesn't use the words "terminal" or "terminal illness" on any material that's sent to the applicant.
Terminal illness cases are those that are expected to result in the death of the disability applicant ("claimant"). Social Security has a list of diagnoses that will flag the application for potential expedited processing as a TERI case:
Additional factors that can flag an application as a TERI case include:
Before the claims examiner at Disability Determination Services (DDS) can make a decision on whether a claim qualifies for fast processing as a TERI case, the examiner must ask a medical consultant (a doctor who provides opinions for Social Security).
Claimants don't have to state on their applications that they have a terminal illness to qualify for expedited processing under the TERI program. Field office representatives or claims examiners at DDS can designate an application as a TERI case when a doctor, family member, or friend states that the illness is expected to result in death or when the claimant is receiving inpatient hospice care or home hospice care.
Even though the SSA can flag a potential TERI case based on an allegation or diagnosis of a terminal illness, the agency still needs to see medical documentation of the illness before the application can be approved. For example, an application for benefits based on terminal cancer will need to contain medical tests, imaging, and treatment from the claimant's oncologist (cancer specialist).
As with every disability application, TERI claimants need to meet the financial eligibility requirements for the type of disability program they're applying for, whether Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both.
Some cases that are in the TERI system could also qualify for expedited treatment through the Presumptive Disability program for SSI (such as patients in hospice), the Compassionate Allowances program (for cancers that aren't covered under the TERI program), or the Quick Disability Determination program.
Updated November 7, 2022