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Improve Access to Treatment with SSI/SSDI Outreach Advocacy and Recovery (SOAR)

Many adults with co-occurring disorders who are homeless have trouble completing the SSI/SSDI application process and, consequently, have no consistent source of medical care. SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) can help. SOAR is a federally-funded technical assistance program designed to improve access to Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people who are homeless with disabling conditions such as co-occurring disorders. Individuals can use the cash assistance from SSI/SSDI to access housing as well as medical and behavioral health services through Medicaid.

SOAR technical assistance includes:

  • Strategic planning
  • Staff training
  • Follow-up support

States participating in SOAR technical assistance have developed partnerships between State agencies such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), Disability Determination Services (DDS), state health, mental health and substance abuse agencies, state homeless services and key service providers. States benefit from the lessons learned in other communities.

SOAR makes use of SAMHSA's Stepping Stones to Recovery curriculum, which provides an in-depth, step-by-step explanation of the application and disability determination process for case managers. The curriculum includes a module discussing issues related to evaluating and documenting co-occurring disorders. The curriculum also includes sample multi-agency release forms, quality review, checklists and worksheets.

Success with SOAR

SOAR has changed disability determination approval rates from 37 percent to 60-95 percent on initial application. Examples of demonstrated cost-savings include:

  • San Francisco Department of Public Health estimates that for every $1.00 invested in SSI/SSDI outreach, they recoup $5.00 in Medicaid reimbursement for uncompensated care.
  • Utah recovered $170,000 in general assistance from the SSA the first four months SOAR was operational in one area of the state.

Resources and Links

  • From SAMHSA News, this article provides information on barriers to SSI/SSDI access and how implementation of the SOAR model improves disability determination outcomes.

  • This curriculum provides an in-depth, step-by-step explanation of the application and disability determination process for case managers who assist persons who are homeless to apply for SSI and/or SSDI. The Stepping Stones to Recovery reference manual recently published by SAMHSA is to accompany the curriculum.

  • The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs provide cash assistance to individuals who have disabilities that limit work. The SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) initiative aims to improve access to these critical benefits for people who are homeless and with disabling conditions, using a multi-pronged strategy to mitigate the most common challenges they face when applying for SSI/SSDI. This brief describes SOAR and the factors that help states and communities successfully implement the initiative.

  • Access to mainstream benefits is crucial for transitioning out of homelessness. It is estimated that 10-15% of individuals experiencing homelessness are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) (Policy Research Associates, 2008)—benefits which provide income to support individuals who are not able to work due to disability. Once these benefits are in place, most recipients also become eligible for health care through either Medicaid or Medicare.