Part 2 — Training
SOAR also addresses another workforce issue—training. SOAR provides 4 days of detailed training for two to four trainers from each state. They learn how to conduct training workshops for frontline case managers in their home states.
But, the training for trainers does not end there. SOAR sends a team of experts to the “home state” workshops. There, they advise new trainers on ways to fine-tune the training and ensure case managers get the information they need.
SOAR training uses a curriculum developed by SAMHSA called Stepping Stones to Recovery: A Training Curriculum for Case Managers Assisting Persons Who Are Homeless Apply for SSI/SSDI Disability Benefits. The curriculum provides an overview of SSA’s disability programs plus a step-by-step guide to engaging potential applicants, gathering evidence of disability, and submitting successful applications for benefits.
Another SAMHSA publication for case managers is called Stepping
Stones to Recovery: A Case Manager’s Manual for Assisting Adults Who Are Homeless with
Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Applications. “It’s a reference book,” said Dr. Rickards, noting that the manual is designed to reinforce what case managers learned during the SOAR trainings. (See SAMHSA
News online, March/April 2006.)
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SOAR is currently working in the following 23 states plus Los Angeles County, CA, and the District of Columbia: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
SOAR emphasizes the importance of documenting results and asks assisting agencies in these states
to record and submit data on initial efforts. Eight SOAR sites in 11 states have reported
Before the SOAR initiative, with few exceptions, approval rates were only an estimated 15 percent
for initial applications by people who were homeless. Preliminary data indicate the average
approval rating for locations that participated in SOAR was 62 percent.
In Richmond, VA, for example, 78 percent of initial applications have been approved since case
managers underwent SOAR training and agencies adopted recommended changes. Nashville, TN, has obtained
approvals in 96 percent of initial applications. Also, the time it takes for SSA to make an initial
decision has decreased in some locations. In Nashville, TN, for example, the time for an initial
decision has decreased from 120 days to 59 days.
In addition, some states have seen a decrease in the number of so-called “consultative examinations,” which
SSA requires when it doesn’t have enough information to make a decision. During these exams,
physicians or psychologists who usually are unfamiliar with applicants meet to determine
whether these applicants are actually disabled.
If applicants don’t seem disabled during the
because they happen to be asymptomatic that day or simply because they’re trying to make a
good impression on a stranger—their applications will be denied.
These preliminary data from SOAR sites draw on a relatively small number of applications from people
who are homeless.
But, the results confirm that homeless SSI/SSDI applicants with disabling
mental illnesses are getting the subsistence and health benefits they need to access housing
and mental health services.
Once homeless individuals have these benefits, they are another
step closer to recovering their lives and their places in the community.
For more information about the SOAR initiative, visit SAMHSA’s link to the SOAR Web site at www.pathprogram.samhsa.gov/SOAR.
« See Part 1: Social Security Benefits: Outreach, Access, and Recovery
See Also—Social Security Benefits: Outreach, Access, and Recovery
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