Do you know a disabled homeless person? Do you wish there was more you could do for them than give them a few bucks when you see them or drop them off a meal when you pass them on the street? Well, there is more you can do—you can change their entire life by helping them get the benefits that they're entitled to.
Homelessness And Disability
More than 40 percent of homeless Americans are persons with disabilities. While many of these individuals have worked in the past and are eligible for benefits under SSDI, many of them do not receive those benefits because of the unique challenges they face. What challenges? Applying for disability benefits is a somewhat lengthy process during which the Social Security Administration will examine the medical history of the applicant before making a decision. Oftentimes more information is needed from the applicant than that which is originally submitted, and sometimes the benefits are denied and must be appealed.
Because homeless people don't have a set place at which they reside, communication between homeless applicants and the Social Security administration can be nearly impossible. Homeless people also often lack medical history because they can't afford to visit a doctor for their ailments. Finally, between 20 and 50 percent of homeless Americans suffer from mental illnesses; this combined with their constant struggle for basic needs can make the process of filing a claim too overwhelming to complete.
How SSDI Can Help
Social Security Disability Insurance is a program that is funded by the federal government and offers financial assistance to disabled individuals in need. Through the program, individuals can receive a monthly payment to assist them in paying for food and shelter. The average monthly SSDI payment is $1,165, and (in most states) people approved for SSDI also automatically qualify for Medicaid, so they can immediately start getting the healthcare they need.
What You Can Do
If you know a person who is disabled (physically or mentally) and living on the streets, here's what you can do to help:
Facilitate Communication. Your first step in helping the homeless person you care about get SSDI benefits is to facilitate communication between them and the Social Security Administration. In order to make communication effective, the Social Security Administration should be able to contact a person who has a stable home, reliable telephone number, and regular contact with the homeless person. If you cannot act as a point of contact for the social security administration, you'll need to find a third party who can.
Now is also a good time to ask the homeless individual about the places they frequent. Find out where they sleep, where they eat, and any other hangout spots they frequent. If you or the person appointed as a contact need to reach the individual quickly, you'll know where to look.
Secure A Lawyer. Because of the special circumstances surrounding homelessness, you'll want to help the homeless person secure a lawyer from a firm like Ball & Ferrari as soon as possible. Since communication is difficult, you'll want the claim to be approved on the first attempt so you don't need to hunt down the individual-in-need for additional paperwork or to file an appeal. The lawyer can also help prove that the lack of the individual's medical history is the result of their difficult circumstances, not an accurate representation of their medical needs.
Of course, the homeless person likely won't have the up-front funds to pay for a lawyer. Don't worry; there are plenty of social security disability lawyer that won't request payment until their clients have won their cases.
Push For A Critical Claim. Once you've secured a point of contact and lawyer for the homeless person you're trying to help, you'll want to ask the lawyer to push for a critical claim approval. While some disability claims can take up to 2 years to process, claims in which the claimants are in dire need of financial or medical assistance are bumped to the front of the line. The lawyer you've helped the individual-in-need secure will handle the gathering of documents and information necessary for a favorable ruling. If they can't find what they need, they'll contact you or the person assigned to handle communication between the homeless person and the Social Security Administration for assistance.
There is a good chance that the disabled homeless person you know is entitled to benefits that will help them get off the street and secure a stable life. Instead of tossing them a few dollars or buying them a cup of coffee the next time you see them, ask the homeless person you know if you can help them take the steps to claiming the disability benefits they're entitled to.