Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 62 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2013. The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 56 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January. Increased payments to more than eight million SSI beneficiaries began on Dec. 31.
According to the Social Security Administration, the purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and SSI benefits is not eroded by inflation. It is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year that a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. If there is no increase, there can’t be a COLA.
On Dec. 6, Michael Astrue, commissioner of Social Security, announced that 35 additional compassionate allowance conditions are in effect, bringing the total number of conditions in the expedited disability process to 200. Compassionate allowances are a way to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits.
The program fast-tracks disability decisions to ensure that Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years. These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children, said Astrue.
“We have achieved another milestone for the compassionate allowances program, reaching 200 conditions,” Astrue said. “Nearly 200,000 people with severe disabilities nationwide have been quickly approved, usually in less than two weeks, through the program since it began in October 2008.”
By definition, these conditions are so severe that Social Security does not need to fully develop the applicant’s work history to make a decision. As a result, Social Security eliminated this part of the application process for people who have a condition on the list, according to the Social Security website.
For information and a complete list of conditions, www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

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