SOAR December E-News

Meet our new SOAR Liaison Amanda!
Meet our new SOAR Liaison Amanda!
December e-News
Amanda Starkey Headshot
Amanda Starkey, SOAR Liaison

Welcoming New SOAR Liaison Amanda Starkey

Please extend a hearty SOAR welcome to the SOAR TA Center's new SOAR Liaison, Amanda Starkey! Prior to joining PRA she worked as a SOAR Specialist in Colorado and Michigan. In addition, she also worked as a consultant with PRA, completing SOAR Online Course practice case reviews. Amanda has a B.S. in Addictions Studies and an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy.
In her new role at the TA Center, she will serve as state liaison. She is also a subject matter expert in co-occurring disorders. Amanda can be reached at Welcome to the SOAR TA Center, Amanda! We are so happy to have you join us! 

SOAR Success Stories

Homeless Advocacy Project in Philadelphia Celebrates 10 Years of SOAR Success

This December, the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) in Philadelphia celebrates 10 years of increasing access to Social Security disability benefits using the SOAR model. During this time they have maintained a 98 percent approval rate on almost 2,000 SSI/SSDI applications. Michele Levy, HAP's Managing Attorney, describes the achievement: "HAP has spent the past 10 years striving to expand our SOAR Project to serve as many populations experiencing homelessness as possible—transition age youth, Veterans treated at our VA Medical Center, mental health court defendants, housing-first participants, shelter-resistant men and women on the street and in safe havens, people with severe mental illness working with targeted case management, and others. Our dedicated partners at SSA and the Pennsylvania Department of Disability Determination Services/Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination have supported all of HAP's SOAR efforts and have been a critical component of our success and quality."

An Ohio Army Veteran's Story of Recovery

Leslie Martinez-Peña, an SSI Specialist in Ohio wrote in to share one client's incredible recovery story:
"One of my success stories is about a 48-year-old man who was residing in the VA domiciliary at Wade Park. I was contacted by his case manager Rita, to discuss whether he could be a potential SOAR applicant. Rita was unsure if he was appropriate because she felt he was not actively engaging in services and may not have enough treatment documentation. While going through the various screening questions with Rita, I believed he was appropriate but I needed to make sure before starting any application. I asked Rita to help coordinate meeting with him and she happily obliged with an appointment the same week.
I was not surprised when he called Rita to cancel the appointment. He gave no explanation and Rita tried to reschedule another time with him but he declined. She gave him my phone number and he actually reached out 2 days later. He expressed interest in doing the application but was currently feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. I listened to his flight of ideas and asked him what day and time worked for him. He responded after much thought and I agreed. I met with him in the comfort of the domiciliary and during the time when the library would be available.
When I met with him, he was guarded, nervous, and kept shaking his leg. I remembered asking about his uncontrollable leg because it was almost jumping from the floor as he shook it. He said, "I am really, really uncomfortable where I'm sitting at. My back is to the door and it's killing me." I immediately offered to move tables and he said he just wanted to move to another chair that faced the door. Once he changed seats, he opened up about his PTSD, anxiety, various surgeries to fix a previous shoulder surgery, his descent into misusing pain medication, and lastly his three suicide attempts. This was an especially heavy appointment because he took such pride of being an Army officer at the prime of his career.
The client was awarded SSI and he immediately moved to the suburbs of Cleveland. He reported renting a small house with a backyard, where he often spends his time sitting and thinking. When I asked what else he is planning for the future, he said that he would hopefully get a therapy dog. He was very appreciative of my services and I told him I was appreciative of his service to our country. I wished him the best of luck and happiness especially in his new home."
Thank you for sharing this success story, Leslie! We hope it inspires our SOAR community to keep SOARing!


SOARing Over Lunch Conference Calls

December 21, 2017; 2:00 p.m. ET
The next SOARing Over Lunch Conference Call will take place Thursday, December 21 at 2:00 p.m. ET! The SOAR TA Center hosts this 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 Leadership Academies

The SOAR TA Center is now accepting applications for all Leadership Academies. Visit the SOARWorks website for more information. Leadership Academies are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and all participants must be approved by their SOAR State Team Lead. All interested participants must complete a Leadership Academy application and submit it for approval. Contact your SOAR TA Center Liaison with any questions.
  • February 6-8, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama
  • April 24-26, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts

Recent Stories from the SOAR Voices Blog

Closeup of a Microphone
Aerial view of a country road in the fall - the threes are a vibrant red

Partner Updates

HHRN Webinar: Persons with Lived Experience Spotlight Series: Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR

December 20, 2017, 1:00–2:15 p.m. ET
Did You Know? Only about 28 percent of individuals who apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are approved on initial application. For people who experience homelessness and have no one to assist them, that percentage is reduced by more than half.
SAMHSA's Homeless and Housing Resource Network (HHRN) is pleased to announce the first webinar in our Persons with Lived Experience Spotlight Series, "Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR."
The first of a four-part series, "Achieving Stability and Recovery with SOAR" will feature two special guests who were able to transform their lives with assistance from SAMHSA's SOAR program and secure access to SSI/SSDI benefits. Joining them, SOAR TA Center Liaison Matt Canuteson will talk about the impact of peer support in SOAR and how it helps improve outcomes and save lives. Together, the experiences of these three presenters will help webinar participants better understand the following:
  • The myriad factors that can contribute to loss of income and homelessness,
  • The benefits of SAMHSA's SOAR program in supporting housing and ending homelessness,
  • How stable income supports the achievement of other recovery supports, and
  • The powerful role of peer support in assisting individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with the SOAR process.
Register for the event

HHRN Webinar: Case Management Spotlight Series: What Does Effective Case Management Really Mean?

December 14, 2017; 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET
"What Does Effective Case Management Really Mean?" is the first webinar in the Case Management in the 21st Century Spotlight Series. This webinar will introduce key elements of effective case management and practical strategies for implementing them.
Gregory A. Shinn, M.S.W., associate director and chief housing officer at the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, and Gabriela Zapata-Alma, director of substance use treatment programs at Thresholds in Illinios, will share their on-the-ground experience and insights that can be immediately applied and tailored to other communities' homeless and behavioral health services. The series is moderated by Pat Tucker, a national expert, speaker, and trainer on empowering individuals experiencing homelessness.
The Case Management in the 21st Century Spotlight Series includes the following webinars and more information about these events is coming soon!
  • January 11: "Show Me Your Outcomes"
  • February 8: "Playing Well in the Sandbox: Cross-organization and Cross-program Partnerships"
  • March 8: "Support from the Top: Administrative and System Supports"
  • April 12: "Case Management: People with Military Experience"
Register for the webinar by 12/13

Funding Corner

Bank of America Charitable Foundation Funding Opportunities

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation is a great potential funding source for SOAR programs across the country, as its list of current funding priorities includes Services for People Experiencing Homelessness and Benefits Access and Referrals. The website describes Benefits Access efforts as, "...transitioning financially distressed, low-to-moderate income individuals and families towards financial stability through bundled services in two core areas--access to benefits and support resources."

Walmart Foundation—State Giving Program

The Walmart Foundation's State Giving Program works to "create opportunities so people can live better," providing grants to 501(c)(3) organizations ranging from $25,000 to $200,000. The State Giving Program invests in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. The majority of the funding goes to support human services, often supporting programs that provide services and supports so that people are able to access and retain stable housing. 

Federal Updates

Webinar: Electronic Wage Reporting & Other Tools for Disability Beneficiaries

December 12, 2017; 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET
It is important to us to provide world-class customer service to all of our beneficiaries by offering various service delivery options. Some of the ways that we are using technology to enhance customer service is through online tools and mobile applications. The use of technology is not a replacement for traditional in-person and telephone customer service, but another option. During the call, you will hear from a panel of experts who will discuss:
  • Overpayments and disability beneficiaries
  • my Social Security Account online services
  • Online and Mobile Wage Reporting Tools for Disability Beneficiaries
  • Internet Appeals

SSA Announces Updated 2018 Taxable Maximum Amount

In October of each year, the Social Security Administration announces adjustments that take effect the following January that are based on the increase in average wages. Based on the wage data Social Security had at the time of the October 13, 2017 announcement, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) was to increase to $128,700 in 2018, from $127,200 in 2017. The new amount for 2018, based on updated wage data reported to Social Security, is $128,400.

White House VA Hotline Now Fully Staffed and Operational Around the Clock to Serve Nation's Veterans

VA announced that the White House VA Hotline, first launched in June as part of President Donald J. Trump's commitment to reforming VA, is now fully staffed with live agents working to serve Veterans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline, which became 24-hour operational in mid-October, is staffed by a team consisting of more than 90 percent Veterans or a family member of a Veteran. The hotline staffing is in direct response to Veterans' requests to talk to agents who could relate to their experiences.