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COVID-19 Resources for SOAR Providers

Here are some resources to help SOAR providers continue to assist applicants during COVID-19.

SOAR Resources

SOAR Webinar

SOAR Implementation During COVID-19 Response
Thursday, April 16, 2020, 3:00 - 4:30pm ET

The SAMHSA SOAR TA Center and SOAR providers from Nashville, TN and Austin, TX discussed innovative ways to continue providing SOAR services while keeping safe physical/social distance during the COVID-19 response. SOAR providers shared how they are using new (and old!) ways of communication to keep SSI/SSDI applications moving forward.

Presenters described strategies for communicating with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Disability Determination Services (DDS) while offices are closed or working remotely. Participants learned about the impact of unemployment and stimulus payments on Social Security benefits.

Webinar Materials:

SOAR Tools

Unemployment Insurance (UI):

Unemployment Insurance eligibility is state-based. Generally, eligibility requires that you are unemployed due to no fault of your own, which means that you lost the job due to lack of available work. You must also meet work and wage requirements, sometimes called a base period. The “standard” base period uses the wages earned in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the beginning date of the unemployment claim. Some of these requirements are being waived during COVID-19, so it is best to check with your state’s unemployment office. Many workers who were not previously covered are now eligible. In addition to whatever state benefits an individual may be eligible for, the federal government is adding $600 per week to the maximum state unemployment insurance benefit that will be paid for 4 months until July 31, 2020.
 
You can find information about unemployment benefits in your state here:
 

Unemployment Insurance (UI) and SSI/SSDI:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • SSI is a needs-based program.
  • Recipients are required to apply for any other benefit they may be eligible to receive which includes UI
  • Recipients may be eligible for more income through UI than SSI
  • SSI would be suspended while receiving UI over the Federal Benefit Rate

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

  • SSDI is an insurance program
  • Unearned income and resources do not impact eligibility
  • Recipients may be eligible to receive both UI and SSDI
  • UI has no impact on the SSDI benefit amount or eligibility
 

Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payments and SSI/SSDI:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) authorized Economic Impact Payments, commonly referred to as stimulus payments.  Most U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are not dependents of another taxpayer and also have an adjusted gross income or earnings under a certain threshold are eligible for a $1,200 payment. Stimulus payments through CARES are not taxable.
 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • The stimulus payments will not count as income for that month
  • The stimulus payments will not be counted as a “resource” for twelve months from the month of receipt
  • SSI recipients will not need to do anything to receive their stimulus payment which should be paid near the beginning of May

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

  • The stimulus payments are categorized as unearned income
  • SSDI benefits are not impacted by unearned income
  • The stimulus payments will not have an impact on SSDI or Social Security Retirement benefits
  • The stimulus payments will also have no impact on Medicare premiums or eligibility
  • SSDI recipients will not need to do anything to receive the stimulus payment which should be paid near the end of April
Individuals with qualifying children will also receive a $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment.  Any SSI or SSDI recipient with dependents who did not file a tax return in 2019 should fill out the form on the irs.gov website for non-filers: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here
 
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council has a helpful FAQ document on the Economic Impact Payments: https://nhchc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FAQ-on-Economic-Impact-Payments.pdf
 

HIPAA During COVID-19:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a Notification of Enforcement Discretion under HIPAA to Allow Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information by Business Associates and for Telehealth. During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies. 
 
The Office of Civil rights will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
 
We are empowering medical providers to serve patients wherever they are during this national public health emergency. We are especially concerned about reaching those most at risk, including older persons and persons with disabilities. – Roger Severino, OCR Director.”
 
The Office of Civil Rights has posted Telehealth and HIPAA FAQs to help answer your specific questions: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/telehealth-faqs-508.pdf
 
As always, if you work for a covered entity under HIPAA consult with your privacy officer about any questions.
 

Federal Resources

State and National Partner Resources

Suggestions from the Field

Communicating with the Applicant

  • Communicate via phone to complete forms and gather information for the MSR.
  • Use Zoom/Skype when possible.
  • Access funding to provide phones and cell service for your applicants:

Obtaining Signatures from the Applicant

  • If possible, make one trip to the client to obtain all signatures.
  • Ask applicant if there is an address they can use during this time. Mail forms that need to be signed; include a stamped envelope for them to return signed forms to you or mail directly to the provider.
  • Have applicants with cell phones snap a photo of the signed form and email it to you for printing.
  • Drop off forms to applicant, including sample completed versions, and get a phone number where they can be reached. Review/complete forms over the phone. Pick up and review the completed forms - if there are any needed corrections, note those errors and leave it with the applicant. Once complete, pick up all forms.

Communicating/Submitting Documents to SSA

  • Mail forms that require wet signatures to SSA. See if your local office will use the postmark date as receipt date.
  • Temporarily, wet signatures may not be required on the SSA-1696. SSA can confirm signatures over the phone with the applicant. For more details, see this emergency message from SSA.
  • Inquire about postponing the PFD. 
  • Once contact has been made with SSA/DDS representative, be sure to get their contact information.
  • For appeals, ask for a continuance for hearings scheduled in April or May. Some courts are conducting hearings via phone or videoconference (Zoom, Skype, etc.).
  • SSA is accepting in-person appointments for vulnerable individuals (including people experiencing homelessness). Appointment requests can be made by calling SSA at 1-800-325-0778.