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My First SOAR Application for a Child

Sandy Mishkin, SOAR Specialist in New Mexico, shares her experience submitting her first SOAR-assisted SSI application for a child.

Perspective From the Field

I am a behavioral health registered nurse who has been working with adults with mental illness in the community since 1980 in various roles, including as a case manager. In 2016, I became certified to submit SOAR applications for adults, and in 2020 I further became certified to submit SOAR applications for children. Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, it was not until 2021, 1 year later, that I attempted my first SOAR-assisted child SSI application.   

Before beginning the application, I reviewed my notes and printouts from the online course. I called my SAMHSA SOAR TA Center Liaison with many questions, and my local SOAR liaison at the Social Security Administration (SSA) to confirm the process for initiating a child application. Finally, I felt ready to begin! 

In my nursing practice, I have always valued working with clients within the context of their support system: family, social network, and community resources. I was very fortunate to work with a father experiencing homelessness whose entire focus was to help his 10-year-old son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder get the help he needed to maximize his quality of life. That included housing, special education, and financial security. Not only did my client’s father meet with me approximately twice each week for 2 months, but he also invited me to be a member of a team at an agency providing services for him and his son; we Zoomed every month to coordinate our efforts.  

Guided by the “Steps to Completing a Child SSI Application Using the SOAR Model,” the “Quality Review Checklist for Child SSI Applications Using the SOAR Model,” and the “SSA Forms Guide-Child SSI,” the client’s father and I together worked our way through the various reports and set short- and long-term goals. We obtained detailed statements about the client’s level of functioning, including comparisons to children his age from a previous guardian, his current therapist, and his father. These statements included information not captured by the various SSA reports. The client’s teacher completed the “Teacher Questionnaire,” and significantly, the client’s pediatrician co-signed the MSR. The “SOAR Checklist for Initial Child SSI Claims” was the first page of our application upon submission.     

When the application for his son’s disability benefits was approved about 4 weeks after submission, the client’s father wept from relief and gratitude. He and his son had been housed in an apartment, his son was doing well in a special education program with an autism classroom, and now the family had a monthly income. 

This was a new and profound experience for me as a SOAR Specialist, and I look forward to tackling my next SOAR child application.