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Getting Started: SOAR Basics
SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is a program designed to increase access to Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSDI), for eligible adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.
Since 2006, SOAR is responsible for assisting 40,311 persons who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness to access Social Security disability benefits. Decisions on SOAR-assisted initial applications were received in an average of 96 days in 2017, a decrease of 5 days from 2016. The national SOAR allowance rate for 2017 was 64 percent. This compares to the initial allowance rate of 28.5 percent for all persons aged 18–64 who applied for SSI or SSDI in 2015.
Building a Strong Foundation for SOAR
State and Local Leads spearhead and coordinate the implementation of SOAR initiatives. These leaders identify and engage stakeholders to participate in steering committees whose goal is to create and implement a SOAR action plan and process for SSI/SSDI application submission. These committees meet regularly to collaborate, report on progress, and troubleshoot challenges.
You want to be a SOAR provider? That's great! Here's what to expect...
Communities funded by HUD's Continuum of Care program are planning and implementing coordinated entry systems. Incorporating disability related questions into a community’s coordinated entry system can assist in identifying potential SOAR applicants.
On July 14, 2015, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released this document, providing guidance and best practices for collaborating with community partners and SSA field offices to help individuals experiencing homelessness successfully navigate the SSI/SSDI application process. Most SOAR providers will recognize many of the strategies contained in the document, as they highlight best practices established by SOAR providers over the past 10 years!
The SOAR Online Course is free and trains case managers to assist individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder to apply for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability programs. Trainees complete a full practice SSI/SSDI application, which is reviewed by experts at the SOAR TA Center who provide individualized feedback. Upon successful completion of the course, trainees receive 20 CEUs from NASW.
In May 2016, Frontiers in Public Health published an evaluation of the SOAR online training model, which assessed SOAR Online Course usage from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. The study found that successful course completions were most concentrated in areas that had local SOAR leaders, trainees through the online course had higher data entry rates for case outcomes in the SOAR Online Application Tracking system, and that trainees reported a high satisfaction rate with the course and comprehensive feedback provided.
Funding and Sustaining Your SOAR Initiative
There is no dedicated source of funding for SOAR programs and yet, all 50 states participate in SOAR at some level by reallocating existing resources; by securing funding through federal and state grants or foundation funding; or by establishing collaborations with hospitals and criminal justice systems.
PATH and SOAR programs have been working in partnership to increase access to SSA disability benefits and end homelessness for over 10 years. The program goals directly complement each other, as SOAR provides PATH case managers the tools necessary to expedite access to income and health benefits, resulting in improved housing and treatment outcomes.
Collaboration Building and Developing Relationships
Utilize the comprehensive resources and tools for developing relationships found on our Community Collaborations page to integrate key stakeholders into your SOAR initiative.