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Social Security joins effort for homeless seniors, veterans

Declared as most successful anti-poverty program ever

Homeless senior sits on streetMay 2, 2016 – The effort to reduce homelessness among seniors, veterans and other vulnerable populations got a boost from the Social Security Administration last week. Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin declared SSA is the “most successful anti-poverty program” in U.S. history.

“Social Security plays a key role in reducing homelessness, and our benefit payments help people to secure and maintain stable housing,” Colvin added.

She said SSA collaborates with other federal, state and local agencies to ensure that veterans, people who are disabled, have lost a loved one, or are retiring have access to our benefits and services.

Colvin and other leaders in the fight to end homelessness gathered last Thursday to continue the ongoing battle against homelessness among veterans, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.

The federal and state officials met to discuss initiatives to end homelessness and outreach programs to vulnerable populations, including veterans, at a forum called “Ending Homelessness: Lessons Learned from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

 Representatives from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, and the Virginia Housing Alliance participated in the discussion.

In 2015, Virginia announced that it had ended homelessness among veterans. Many federal and state agencies are looking to replicate best practices from Virginia’s success in their respective states.

Social Security has collaborated with other federal agencies to develop key strategies for connecting veterans and other individuals experiencing homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits.

Through partnerships across the country with the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) initiative, the agency receives more complete disability applications. They have a higher rate of approval on the initial application because someone is helping the applicant, especially homeless people who have difficulty documenting their cases and getting their medical records.

SOAR is a national project, funded by the SAMHSA, designed to increase access to SSI and SSDI for eligible adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.

The SOAR project provides training on how to complete the SSI/SSDI application to service providers working with individuals experiencing homelessness.

SSA help for veterans

Veterans are at an increased risk of both homelessness and disability. Social Security offers several initiatives to accelerate processing disability benefit claims from veterans.

Since 2005, the agency has provided expedited processing of disability applications for wounded warriors who have suffered an injury or illness while serving on active duty after October 1, 2001.

Beginning in 2014, disability applications for those with a Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100% receive expedited processing for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security worked with the VA to set up a data exchange to identify these veterans when they first apply for Social Security or SSI benefits.

For more information about wounded warriors and veterans who have a compensation rating of 100%, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/veterans.

For additional information about the SOAR project and initiatives to help people experiencing homelessness, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness.

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