In May 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a new memorandum (PDF) encouraging Veterans Health Administration (VHA) homeless programs staff to be trained in and use the SOAR model. As part of this revised policy, VA federal staff will soon be able to act as an applicant’s Appointed Representative, using the Social Security Administration (SSA) Form 1696.
We at the SOAR TA Center are excited about this positive change that helps eliminate barriers VA federal staff previously faced when using the SOAR model. SSA supports this development and is also undergoing an internal policy change to encourage its implementation. Shortly, local SSA representatives will be receiving guidance on VA staff acting as SSA-1696 Appointed Representatives.
On June 5, 2017, the VA Homeless Programs Office, along with other VA partners and the SOAR TA Center, held a webinar for VA staff, encouraging them to reach out to State and Local SOAR Leaders to explore training options through the SOAR Online Course.
Key next steps:
- Connect with your local VA Medical Center staff, who may reach out with questions and excitement about SOAR, and talk with them about your local SOAR process.
- Encourage interested VA staff to take the SOAR Online Course, either the full course for those who will be assisting with SSI/SSDI applications, or Class 1 as a “SOAR 101” for those who are looking for general information about the SOAR model and SSA benefits.
- Be patient as this new policy change is enacted at SSA and disseminated to local SSA Field Offices. This is a huge step in the right direction, but we know that bumps may occur along the way.
- Reach out to your SOAR TA Center Liaison or Jen Elder, National Policy and Partnerships Coordinator, with additional questions or if you experience any difficulties.
The SOAR TA Center extends our sincere appreciation to our federal partners at VA and SSA for their hard work in bringing about these policy changes.