Establishing Eligibility for SSI for Chronically Homeless People. Notes


  1. SSI is a means-tested “welfare” program, designed to supply income to poor people who qualify on the basis of being aged, blind, or disabled. Eligibility for SSI does not depend on past employment. People who are age 65 or older and who meet the income and other non-medical requirements for eligibility do not have to prove that they are disabled. For persons who are blind or disabled and between the ages of 18-64 to be approved, they must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (i.e., to work and make $1010 or more per month in 2012; $1690 if blind).

  2. Unlike SSI, which is means-tested, SSDI is an “insurance” program, designed to provide an income to persons who have worked and paid Social Security payroll taxes for a sufficiently long time but who have become disabled and can no longer work. The two programs use the same criteria for establishing that a disability exists, but have different rules for a number of other things, such as the amount of monthly stipend, how soon benefits start after enrollment, and which health insurance program a person qualifies for. SSI qualifies a person for Medicaid in most states; SSDI qualifies a person for Medicare in all states, but coverage does not begin until 24 months after the person enrolls in SSDI. Some people who get SSDI are still poor enough to qualify for SSI as well, which also means they can participate in both Medicaid and Medicare. These people are called “concurrent beneficiaries” in relation toSSI/SSDI, and “dual-eligibles”in relation to their sources of health care payment. Their status poses some challenges related to getting appropriate health and behavioral health care, as discussed in Wilkins, Burt, and Mauch (2012).

  3. Adapted from information supplied by SSA at

  4. 2010 SSI Annual Statistical Report. Pub. No. 13-11827. Washington, DC: SSA, August 2011.

  5. Local SSA field offices receive applications, check to assure they are complete and determine whether the applicant is eligible based on SSA’s non-medical criteria. They then forward the application to the state Disability Determination Services office, which determines medical eligibility. The DDS reports its recommendation to SSA and SSA notifies the applicant of its decision.

  6. Hunt and Baumohl (2003) introduces a double issue of Contemporary Drug Problems, 30(1-2), 2003 that is devoted entirely to the results of “the SSI study.” The SSI study was a 2-year longitudinal inquiry into what happened to the people who lost benefits when, on January 1, 1997, SSA acted on a Congressional directive to terminate benefits for almost 170,000 existing beneficiaries with a DA&A-related impairments, and to stop approving SSI applications for people with such conditions.

  7. See

  8. SOAR is just starting in Maine, years after the specialized position was established. HHO had an SSI specialization before SOAR and became a SOAR trainer because it was already experienced. Antecedents of the Benefits and Entitlements Services Team (B.E.S.T.) in Los Angeles began around 2003.

  9. Described below in Section 3.2, on “System Change.”

  10. Personal communication, Elizabeth Boyce, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, June 15, 2011. During the same reporting period, B.E.S.T. also closed 277 cases before an application could be submitted; of these, 108 could not be found and had had no contact with B.E.S.T. for at least 30 days, 64 were found to be ineligible, and 105 were closed for other or unrecorded reasons.

  11. See

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