Guest blog by Disbility-Benefits-Help.org
When you’re struggling with homelessness and disability simultaneously, knowing how to improve your situation can be extremely difficult. Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) could help pull you out of the homelessness cycle by giving you a consistent income with which to pay bills, afford rent, and cover other everyday living expenses.
Benefits may come as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is a program for disabled workers, so there are work history requirements. If you’ve worked in the last 10 years, then you may qualify. SSI, on the other hand, has no work history requirements and is instead a need-based program, but as a person dealing with homelessness, you’re quite likely to meet the financial eligibility threshold.
Being out of work isn’t enough to qualify for disability, even if you’re not working because of a medical condition. Instead, the condition that has put you out of work must meet a particular severity level. This is done by meeting or closely matching a listed condition in the Blue Book or through a residual functional capacity (RFC) evaluation that shows severe deficits in your mental and/or physical abilities.
The Blue Book is a manual of recognized medical impairments that “automatically” qualify for disability benefits, and the SSA will first review your claim to see if your medical records qualify you under a listed condition. If you don’t qualify through the Blue Book, then they will look at your RFC. Either way, approval for disability benefits hinges on having the appropriate medical documentation to prove you have a severe medical condition that has or will stop you from working for at least 12 months.
If you’ve been unable to keep up with doctors’ appointments due to financial challenges, try to build your medical files up by taking advantage of services at free and income-based medical clinics. Just make sure you’re seen by a doctor rather than a nurse practitioner, because the SSA requires medical records documented by a physician.
Even without a thorough medical history, the SSA will still consider your claim, as long as they know financial challenges have prevented you from seeking ongoing medical care. To fill in the gaps in your medical files, the SSA will require you to attend appointments with contracted doctors, so start investigating your transportation options for making it to these appointments, if necessary.
A disability application can be completed online or at a local SSA office. Homelessness presents unique challenges though, like finding a way to receive communications from the SSA without a permanent mailing address. Applying at the local SSA office is probably your best option, since a representative can help you overcome the hurdles that homelessness tosses into the mix. If you decide instead to submit your claim online, you can access the SSA’s online application port from any internet-connected computer, including those at the public library.