The Mission:

To put an end to homelessness in Kern County through collaborative planning and action.

For information: Homelessness Resources Administrative Assistant Jessica M. Janssen (661) 834-1580 or Jessica.F@uwkern.org. 

 


Stewards, Inc./SOAR Project

Bret Royal - "With Social Security benefits, I'll be able to afford a place"

By Dr. Gerald Cantu, Stewards, Inc.
Kern County Homeless Collaborative SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access & Recovery) Project Co-Lead
It had been about a month since Bret Royal had received a letter informing him of Social Security’s decision that he did not qualify for disability benefits. He had been preparing to send Social Security his request for an appeal, a process that can take years to conclude. But then, I agreed to help Bret with his Social Security application in an attempt to acquire experience that would later help me with SOAR. After I asked a basic question about the appeals process to our SOAR Liaison at the Disability Determination Service Division (DDSD) of the Social Security Administration, she immediately re-opened the case. Within a day of contacting her, and a month after the decision denying benefits, a stunning reversal of Social Security’s prior decision happened and Bret was suddenly approved for Social Security benefits!
Bret’s case embodies the very reason for our work. He was diagnosed with a malignant tonsil tumor in July 2012. Since then, he has undergone chemotherapy, which has rendered him incapable of working due to severe fatigue. All of this has been certified by doctors but Social Security somehow missed it in their initial decision. Since he cannot work, Bret qualifies for General Assistance with the Department of Human Services, but he receives a paltry $285 a month.
What Bret used to say was: “I can’t afford anything with this money. I have a seventeen year old son. He is staying with my parents.”
What he is saying now is: “With Social Security benefits, I’ll be able to afford a place for me and him until he goes to college.”
Though Bret was not an applicant through SOAR, his case benefitted directly from the collaboration that has begun between the KCHC’s SOAR Leadership Team and DDSD, which is the medical arm of Social Security that makes disability determinations. Bret’s case is a real result of the networking that began at our Collaborative's SOAR planning forum in late September. DDSD representatives were at that forum, including our current SOAR Liaison. (She and her colleagues made the long drive from Fresno to be there.) Her actions in relation to Brett’s case give an indication of the kind of advocacy she will be providing to our SOAR applicants in the future.
SOAR is designed to link homeless and at-risk persons to Social Security benefits quickly and with high approval rates. Such outcomes help applicants to avert the glacially slow appeals process, which comes after an initial decision denying benefits is made and can take years to complete.
Nationwide, SOAR applications average approval rates of roughly 70% in a matter of 90-100 days. SOAR is able to achieve these results through the proactive assistance of a case worker, and collaboration between the various partners working on behalf of clients like Bret.
 

 

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