Current course:  SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Online Course: Adult Curriculum

What is SOAR?

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is a program designed to increase access to Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits for eligible individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. 

Many people with disabilities who experience homelessness or are at risk of homelessness (e.g., those returning to the community from institutions such as jails, prisons, or hospitals) struggle to access the resources they need. Many suffer from disabling mental illnesses, co-occurring substance use, trauma, and medical issues that impact their ability to work. The path to recovery can be extraordinarily challenging when one is constantly struggling to meet basic needs. Having income and health care benefits is often a critical first step on the road to recovery.
 
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two programs that can provide assistance.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a needs-based program, for individuals who are blind, disabled, or elderly, with low income/resources
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for blind or disabled individuals who are insured through employee and employer contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund
  • In most states, Medicaid and/or Medicare health insurance accompany these benefits for those eligible 
 
Circumstances can impede access to income and health care benefits.
  • SSA communicates mainly by mail, which is a challenge when one does not have a permanent, reliable address.
  • People who are experiencing homelessness often have sporadic medical care, making it difficult to access medical records to document disability.
  • Symptoms can interfere with cognitive functioning, making it difficult to navigate a complex system.
  • SOAR helps to overcome these barriers!
 
SOAR = SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery
SOAR is a Best Practice supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Designed to help states increase access to SSI/SSDI for eligible adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.
  • The SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance (TA) Center utilizes a three-step approach to assist communities in SOAR implementation:
    1. Strategic planning meetings to bring together key stakeholders to collaborate and agree upon a SOAR process and develop a SOAR action plan;
    2. Training SOAR Leaders through the SOAR Leadership Academy, who coordinate local SOAR initiatives; and
    3. Individualized TA to support action plan implementation, develop quality review procedures, assist with questions about SSA disability applications, and help with tracking outcomes
 
The SOAR model:
  • Encourages a collaborative process;
  • Facilitates communication among SSI/SSDI benefit applicants, case managers, SSA, Disability Determination Services (DDS), and community providers;
  • Prepares case managers to assume a central role in gathering complete, targeted, and relevant information for SSA and DDS;
  • Helps the disability determination process move more smoothly and quickly by providing assistance to SSA and DDS;
  • Seeks approval on initial applications, avoiding the need for appeals; and
  • Works to increase access to supportive services and employment opportunities
 
SOAR Works! 
  • Since 2006, 50 states and the District of Columbia have reported 43,486 approvals on SOAR-assisted initial applications for adults (2019 National Outcomes).
  • Applying the SOAR model has resulted in an approval rate of 63 percent in an average of 108 days (2019 National Outcomes).
  • A SOAR pilot program for children in Washoe County, NV from 2014 to 2016 reported an approval rate of 62 percent in an average of 129 days.
  • Visit https://soarworks.prainc.com/article/soar-outcomes-and-impact for up-to-date information about approval rates using the SOAR model.
 
Sustainability
  • Collecting outcomes is crucial in sustaining both the local and national efforts.
  • SOAR provides an Online Application Tracking (OAT) program to at no cost.
  • SOAR-trained case managers can easily track their applications.
  • OAT is completely HIPAA compliant – no personal identifying information is collected.
  • Some states use other methods to track outcomes of their SOAR applications (e.g. HUD's Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)).
 
Funding for SOAR Positions
  • Nationwide, in 2019, there were 524 full-time and 169 part-time SOAR-dedicated positions.
  • As reported by 27 states, the average salary for dedicated SOAR benefits specialists was $39,700/year.
  • Funding for SOAR positions came from federal programs, Medicaid, state and local funds, and foundation funding.
  • For more information about funding for SOAR positions, visit https://soarworks.prainc.com/article/soar-funding-and-sustainability-overview

SOAR Female Super Hero

The SAMHSA SOAR TA Center estimates that in 2019 alone, SSI/SSDI benefits paid to individuals served by SOAR added at least $463 million into the economies of participating states and localities.