Discuss: Share in Our Policy Ideas

Friday, April 3, 2009

Helping Homeless Individuals with Serious Mental Illness Get Disability Benefits

Yvonne Perret
Executive Director, Advocacy and Training Center

Deborah Dennis
Vice President, Policy Research Associates, Inc

Margaret Lassiter
Senior Project Associate, Policy Research Associates, Inc

Social Security and SSI disability benefits are often the main sources of stable income for people who have serious mental illness. Individuals who are homeless face particular barriers in navigating the application process. They typically lack a mailing address, transportation, and a treatment history from accepted medical sources (physicians or licensed psychologists). Improving Social Security Disability Programs for Adults Experiencing Long-term Homelessness proposes three strategies to address these barriers: (a) expand the acceptable medical sources to include professions likely to be available in publicly funded health and mental health care systems; (b) use SSA’s presumptive eligibility for SSI disability benefits for people with schizophrenia who are homeless for at least six months; and (c) modify the administrative process to accommodate homeless individuals consistent with SSA’s Homeless Plan of 2002.

Click here to download the full policy proposal developed as part of the project, Strengthening Social Security for Vulnerable Groups.

The project was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Campaign for American Workers.