SOAR Voices

 

Social Workers Stand Up and SOAR

By Josh Kivlovitz, SOAR Intern, Healthy Community Collaborative, Austin Travis County Integral Care in Austin, Texas

When I first began my internship, I had no experience working with populations experiencing homelessness, and I certainly had no idea what SOAR was. Learning about the SOAR process was such an eye-opening experience for both the challenges that adults experiencing homelessness face and the tremendous intricacies of Social Security disability.

During my first semester, I had two very different SOAR clients. I would describe my first SOAR client as being logistically easy. There were no unique situations or surprises, just a straightforward application process. But, even though it was easy, it was a truly valuable learning experience sitting with a client and exploring all of the challenges they have faced leading to their current situation.

My second SOAR client provided similar opportunities to practice my engagement and interviewing skills, but the real challenge came in the imperfections of the application. It seemed like everything that could go wrong did: missed appointments, gaining employment above SGA during the application process and then losing it just weeks before the application was due, missing medical records, and a mysterious disability application being filed for my client unbeknownst to both the client and myself.

These challenges were all great opportunities to learn more about the SOAR process and practice my adaptability. I had the opportunity to troubleshoot my issues through calls to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Disability Determination Services (DDS), gain insight into problems with help from other local SOAR providers, and learn more about the guidelines for working while applying for and receiving benefits.

Shortly after I returned to my internship in the spring, I found out that my first SOAR client was approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I was equally elated and relieved. Having spent so much time with this client while working on her application, I knew how much she needed this income and how much it would mean to her. I had hoped that SSA and DDS would see what I did—and they had. My client was so thrilled to finally have some financial security. While I haven’t heard back anything yet on my second SOAR client, I am hopeful that SSA and DDS will see what I saw with her as well. And even if they do not, I know that will just be another experience for me to continue learning.

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The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.