Applicant's Courage and SOAR Provider's Assistance Lead to Success in Florida
DeAnna OFlaherty from Flagler Cares in Flagler Beach, Florida, shared this incredible SOAR success story:
"Jim* was a small, quiet man who had made his living as a contractor and house painter. He had developed severe anxiety and breathing problems after a life of tragic events that left him with few people in his life with whom to turn. He was living with a friend when I met him on Halloween 2019, but by Christmas day, he was living in a tent behind a big-box store. He was bashful and uncomfortable when describing his history with someone he had just met. We look it slow, and I tried to reassure him at every chance that this uncomfortable process would be one of the few times his painful memories would help him get what he needed.
Jim and I had to review dates and timelines multiple times. In my SOAR work, I find it helps to have a conversation with the applicant about their history and to make notes of key dates. I then help the applicant arrange the events in timeline order by asking, 'Did that happen before or after this event?' It all falls into place eventually. I went into the wooded area where Jim lived many times to get forms and questionnaires completed for his application and his two consultative exam appointments.
Jim mustered a lot of courage to follow through with those taxi rides to another county to talk to a doctor he had never met before. In addition to his disability benefit application, we worked together on a mainstream housing voucher application, aiming to get him into housing as soon as he was awarded benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic had closed Social Security offices to in-person appointments, but we worked hard to get his appointment moved to a phone call.
The Disability Determination Services worker called me on March 6, 2020, and said the file had been transferred back to the Social Security office. I asked if he could tell me the outcome. He sighed and said, 'No, but you can make assumptions.' I smiled so hard and really wanted to cry. As soon as we could, we assisted Jim in opening a bank account at a branch near his camp. He was so proud to be expecting an income and to have his account information ready for the pre-effectuation review conference (PERC) appointment.
On March 20, 2020, less than 5 months after we first met, Jim had his PERC appointment and was awarded benefits, including 5 months of back pay. He cried and thanked me. A few hours later, at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, the Housing Authority called to tell me Jim had been awarded a mainstream housing voucher and would pay just $112 a month for a brand-new 1-bedroom apartment.
After his award, Jim stayed a few nights in a hotel and, overwhelmed by his new options, he lost touch for a week. I was a little worried about him, but it was a good reminder that when someone gets benefits, it can be a bit overwhelming to take it all in. Jim has since completed the application for the new housing and is awaiting building completion."
Thank you for submitting this fantastic success story, DeAnna!