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Getting Involved with SOAR

You want to be a SOAR provider? That’s great! Here’s what to expect.

What to Expect as a SOAR Provider

SOAR promotes recovery and wellness through increased access to Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. SOAR providers assist individuals with complete and quality applications. This is not an easy task, and we want to be sure that you understand the commitment required – we believe it is well worth the effort!

Training

The SOAR Online Course trains providers to assist individuals with the Social Security disability application process. The course includes an Adult Curriculum for assisting with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims for adults and a Child Curriculum for assisting with SSI claims for children. 

  • The SOAR Online Course: Adult and Child Curriculums are free and are located on the SOARWorks website.
  • Each curriculum consists of seven classes, each of which has a series of articles, short quizzes, and a practice case component. The practice case provides an opportunity for trainees to apply what they have learned in the course by completing a sample application packet for a fictitious applicant using SOAR techniques.
  • It takes approximately 20 hours to complete each curriculum and participants can work at their own pace, starting and stopping as they wish. However, we encourage students to complete the curriculum within 30 days to retain the information learned.
  • Upon successful completion, participants will receive 20 CEUs (continuing education units) from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Many SOAR Local Leads offer one-day SOAR Online Course Review Sessions to review key components of the curriculum, discuss local/state practices, and connect new providers to local Social Security Administration (SSA) and DDS (Disability Determination Services) offices.

Time Commitment

We estimate that each SOAR application will take approximately 20-40 hours to complete, from initial engagement to receiving a decision on a claim. This generally occurs over the course of 60-90 days.    

  • The time spent on each application will vary depending on the amount of engagement that is needed as well as other variables such as the experience level of the SOAR worker. For example, engagement with an applicant who is residing in an institution may take 20 hours, while it may take longer to connect with someone who is living outside or difficult to contact.

SOAR Critical Components

SOAR providers with higher approval rates credit their success to implementing the SOAR critical components (1) and submitting high quality applications. Use of these components significantly increases the likelihood of an approval on initial application for those who are eligible (2).  The five SOAR critical components of application assistance are: 

  • Serve as the applicant’s appointed representative using the SSA-1696: Appointment of Representative form.
  • Collect medical records, assessments, case management notes and collateral information.
  • Write a comprehensive Medical Summary Report (MSR) that includes psychosocial, treatment, and functional information.
  • Have the MSR co-signed, when possible, by an acceptable medical source.
  • Perform quality review of application prior to submission. 

Follow Up

The work of a SOAR provider does not end after submitting an application. SOAR providers are expected to:

  • Communicate regularly with SSA and DDS regarding the status of applicants’ claims.
  • Continue ongoing outreach to stay connected throughout the determination process.
  • Help individuals obtain other needed services (e.g. housing, employment, health care). 

Outcome Tracking 

Tracking SOAR outcomes is a critical way to document successes and target technical assistance needs.

  • Use the SOAR Online Application Tracking (OAT) system or your state’s preferred method to track applications submitted, critical components used, approvals/denials, and time to decision (i.e., from application submission to receipt of SSA’s decision).
  • Tracking outcomes is an essential piece of funding and sustainability efforts.

Local Involvement

Many SOAR communities have local steering committees and/or SOAR practitioner meetings. Getting involved locally can be a great way to connect with others who are doing similar work. You can seek support, obtain refresher training and help with growing and expanding your local SOAR initiative. 

Benefit to Your Agency and the Individuals You Serve

Access to SSI/SSDI can be a major tool in recovery, both from mental illness and homelessness. With the income support and health insurance that SSI/SSDI provides, individuals are able to meet their basic needs, maintain housing, and pay their bills.  As a result, they are more likely to keep appointments and engage in treatment. If your agency is Medicaid (or Medicare) reimbursable, you can recoup the cost of uncompensated care and receive payment for future services.

Without the support of a SOAR provider, it can take as long as 1-3 years to obtain approval for SSI/SSDI, during which time people are often lost to the process and require a great deal of community support simply to survive. With the SOAR approach, providers are achieving a national approval rate of 65 percent in an average of 100 days. The rewards are great for all involved!


(1) /article/soar-model-critical-components 

(2) Based on data from January 15, 2005 to February 14, 2014 obtained from the SOAR Online Application Tracking (OAT) system. Data includes 4,200 application outcomes from 35 states.

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