In May 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a new memorandum, encouraging Veterans Health Administration (VHA) homeless programs staff to be trained in and use the SOAR model. As part of this revised policy, VA federal staff will soon be able to act as an applicant's Appointed Representative, using the Social Security Administration (SSA) Form 1696.
We at the SOAR TA Center are excited about this positive change that helps eliminate barriers VA federal staff previously faced when using the SOAR model. SSA supports this development and is also undergoing an internal policy change to encourage its implementation. Shortly, local SSA representatives will be receiving guidance on VA staff acting as SSA-1696 Appointed Representatives.
On June 5, 2017, the VA Homeless Programs Office, along with other VA partners and the SOAR TA Center, held a webinar for VA staff, encouraging them to reach out to State and Local SOAR Leaders to explore training options through the SOAR Online Course.
Key next steps:
Connect with your local VA Medical Center staff, who may reach out with questions and excitement about SOAR, and talk with them about your local SOAR process.
Encourage interested VA staff to take the SOAR Online Course, either the full course for those who will be assisting with SSI/SSDI applications, or Class 1 as a "SOAR 101" for those who are looking for general information about the SOAR model and SSA benefits.
Be patient as this new policy change is enacted at SSA and disseminated to local SSA Field Offices. This is a huge step in the right direction, but we know that bumps may occur along the way.
Reach out to your SOAR TA Center Liaison or Jen Elder, National Policy and Partnerships Coordinator, with additional questions or if you experience any difficulties.
The SOAR TA Center extends our sincere appreciation to our federal partners at VA and SSA for their hard work in bringing about these policy changes.
Portland, Maine SOAR Leadership Academy
From May 2 to 4, 2017, the SOAR TA Center facilitated a SOAR Leadership Academy in Portland, Maine. Matthew Canuteson, Abigail Lemon, and Dazara Ware of the SOAR TA Center facilitated the training. There were 29 participants representing 16 states (AK, AZ, CO, FL, IA, IL, KA, MA, MO, NC, OR, PA, RI, TX, WA, and WY). Throughout the 3 days of training, there was enthusiastic participation and commitment to SOAR; a testament to the participants' dedication to use SOAR to achieve their goals of ending homelessness in their communities. Congratulations to our new graduates! We are excited to see you go forth and SOAR!
Sharing Our Successes
Tevfik S. Harris from Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, California wrote in to share a recent success!
"I have been managing our SOAR program and assisting our homeless Veterans in accessing SSA benefits since October of last year. I can't sum up in words how great it makes me feel to see and hear the excitement when a client gets approved for benefits. With each approval, I know and they know that things are on track to get better. Below is a brief story about one of my recent approvals that came post first-round denial.
I met Mr. Barnes* through another Benefits Specialist. His application was pending a determination, and I assisted him with completing all necessary reports regarding his ability to complete daily activities and his work history detail reports. His first application was ultimately denied. He decided to appeal the decision, and so in March 2017, shortly after the denial, I submitted an appeal request. I based the request on the fact that there would be new medical records to support his ongoing mental health care and I connected his present state of homelessness to his continued mental health conditions. He was sheltered at a very unsafe, overcrowded shelter and his cell phone had been stolen, making it difficult to get in touch with him. Thankfully, our Outreach Team was able to locate him in time to sit with me and complete all appeal reports so I could submit them.
He also was able to show up when he was needed for the all-important Consultative Examinations. He did these things and waited patiently. And finally, I was thrilled to report to him that he had been approved to receive SSDI after submitting the appeal only a few weeks earlier! Because of his new benefits, he has moved into an apartment, leaving the shelter behind. This marks my first approval on appeal. I know there will be many more to come!
The success story from Texas in the May e-News inspired me. Hopefully my story will inspire others."
Thank you for sharing, Tevfik, and congratulations on your first appeal approval! Do you have a success story you'd like to share with the SOAR community? E‐mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
The next SOARing Over Lunch Conference Call will take place Tuesday, June 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET! The SOAR TA Center hosts a series of informal monthly calls designed to help support SOAR efforts across the country. Participants can log‐in to ask about any SOAR‐related question they may have.
SOAR On the Road!
The SOAR TA Center will be presenting at and attending a number of conferences over the next few months. Check out their sessions and say hello!
Looking for an upcoming SOAR training in your area? Check out the Upcoming Trainings Page on the SOARWorks website! We've highlighted upcoming SOAR Fundamentals Trainings from around the country.
SOAR Leadership Academy
The SOAR TA Center is accepting applications for the Detroit, Michigan Leadership Academy, being held August 29-31, 2017. Contact your SOAR TA Center liaison with any questions.
Mental Health America of Northeast Florida is hiring two full-time Care Coordinators based in Jacksonville, Florida to assist individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with applying for SSI/SSDI using the SOAR model.
The LEAD Center has released a brief titled, The ABLE Act and Employment: Strategies for Maximizing the Effectiveness of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act as a Tool for Financial Stability and Employment Outcomes of People with Disabilities. This brief demonstrates how provisions in the ABLE Act can be combined with federal benefit services and other federal programs and initiatives to further competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. The brief contains a list of the provisions of the ABLE Act, its impact on the financial self-sufficiency of and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and recommendations on how to best use the ABLE Act to maximize these outcomes. ABLE account eligibility is limited to individuals whose onset of disability occurred prior to age 26. Individuals who meet this criteria and are receiving SSI or SSDI can use this resource in working towards financial stability.
Evidence-based integrated treatment and effective care coordination are key components for improving the health of people with multiple chronic conditions. The event will highlight models of integrated care, key findings from the research community, examples of diverse grantee practices regarding service delivery, presentations by Department of Health and Human Services agencies, and a wide range of resources to support efforts to build integrated systems of care. This virtual meeting will take place on June 22 and 23, 2017. This event is open to the public and to any interested organizations. Please visit the registration page for agenda and speaker biographies and to register for this unique event.
SAMHSA has announced the formation of a new federal interagency initiative to better address serious mental illness across the nation. The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was created under the 21st Century Cures Act to foster coordination of all federal efforts related to serious mental illness. SAMHSA is responsible for managing the ISMICC.