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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
Best Practices for Implementing State and Local SSI/SSDI Outreach Initiatives for People Experiencing Homelessness
When beginning a SOAR initiative, it is important to plan how your community will introduce SOAR to key partner agencies, support dedicated SOAR benefits specialists, ensure quality review of applications, track outcomes, and fund/sustain the initiative. Identifying how your community will address the eight key areas in this document will provide a strong foundation for your SOAR initiative.
As planning for your SOAR initiative progresses, it is helpful to define roles and responsibilities for how each member of the initiative can contribute to planning and sustaining community collaborations.
You want to be a SOAR provider? That's great! Here's what to expect...
This document outlines key best practices, also known as "SOAR critical components," for assisting with SSI/SSDI applications. Programs utilizing all or most of the SOAR critical components demonstrate consistently high approval rates. When beginning a local SOAR initiative, the SOAR TA Center recommends building these components into the local SOAR strategic plan.
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!
Training in the SOAR model
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.