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Veteran SOAR Success Stories

November is National Veteran and Military Families Month, and we are celebrating with the SOAR success stories of Veterans submitted by SOAR practitioners from across the country!

Mack in Wyoming 

Our first story comes from Michelle Byrd at Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOANR) in Wyoming.  

Mack was a Veteran who came to Volunteers of America Northern Rockies by referral from the chaplain at the Veteran Affairs (VA) Cheyenne Medical Center. Mack had been admitted to the hospital and had no place to stay once he was released. Mack has significant mental and physical disabilities. While in the hospital, he and the chaplain talked about both of them serving at the same Army base in Alaska. Mack shared that he didn’t know where he was going to go after being released. With the extent of his disabilities, employment wasn’t an option, and he did not have an income. Before being released, Mack talked to the case managers at the program for Veterans experiencing homelessness. He was then referred to Community Action of Laramie County and then to VOANR. 

Mack was very patient with the entire SOAR process. He was enrolled in our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program as well as SOAR and using the SOAR process made his case easy and quick. The longest time during the process was waiting for a decision. Words of wisdom for new SOAR practitioners: keep your clients always informed. Explain the process thoroughly and explain that sometimes it takes a long time. 

While he was enrolled in the SSVF program, I was able to secure housing for Mack and pay for his rent while we were filling out all the necessary paperwork, but his anxiety and depression made him experience a lot of ups and downs during the process. Even though he was housed, he still felt depressed because he was not able to be self-sufficient. Since his approval, he can pay his rent and utilities, he can shop for his own needs and wants, and he does not worry about where his next meal is coming from. Mack is in higher spirits when I check in on him, and he is very grateful that there are programs to help Veterans become self-sufficient again. 

Harry in Massachusetts 

Our next Veteran SOAR success story comes from Liam Connolly of the VA Boston Healthcare System in Massachusetts. 

I take referrals from providers working with Veterans experiencing homelessness or in permanent supportive housing. I have been using the SOAR process since 2018, and it helps make as thorough an approach as possible when engaging and completing the applications. My advice to other practitioners for using SOAR would be to begin identifying parts of the Medical Summary Report immediately upon engaging with someone who wants to apply. I begin working on the template as soon as I start. 

It’s uplifting when there is a favorable decision, such as the case of a Veteran I worked with, named Harry, who was able to increase his income. Harry can now find new housing and add his daughter to his household. The extra income from SSDI really helps. 

Ron in Pennsylvania 

The following Veteran SOAR success story comes from Jessica Stoudmire at the Veterans Leadership Program (VLP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Ron was a Veteran who was unable to work due to long-term COVID-19. He came to VLP to request general assistance and was referred to SOAR. It was a very lengthy undertaking, as he was the first person I guided through the SOAR process who was disabled due to COVID, so I didn’t know what to expect. Both he and I needed to be patient and maintain contact with each other and the adjudicator. 

Ultimately, Ron was approved for SSI backpay of $5,900 and SSDI back pay of $14,100, as well as ongoing SSDI of $1,800 per month. This was life-changing for him, allowing him to get caught up on his bills and keep his home. 

Carl in Nevada 

Our next Veteran SOAR success story comes from Katie Zimmer at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Carl was a Veteran who experienced homelessness due to a memory impairment that rendered him unable to find and maintain employment. His short-term memory is severely impaired, which makes it difficult for him to follow up on various tasks. He had already relinquished his driver’s license for safety reasons because he kept getting lost while driving. Carl was referred to the SOAR program once he was temporarily housed through a Department of Veterans Affairs homelessness program. 

The SOAR model made this experience very smooth for Carl. He was able to go to all medical appointments required by SSA and was found disabled within 6 months of applying. He was awarded benefits last month, and as a result, he is more financially independent from the Department of Veterans Affairs and is able to pay towards rent and buy items for his apartment. 

Clinton in Michigan 

Our final Veteran SOAR success story comes from Gary E. Conley at Volunteers of America SSVF in Detroit, Michigan. 

Clinton was a Veteran experiencing homelessness and had a variety of conditions, including schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, paranoia, and bipolar disorder. I helped assemble his application based on the facts, and I advise other SOAR practitioners to do the same when helping someone apply—don’t rely on opinions. Now that he is receiving benefits following approval, Clinton has a stable place where he and his dog can live. 

Have a story of your own? Submit your SOAR success

 *Sharing Our Successes stories are edited for brevity and clarity. All beneficiary names have been changed to protect anonymity.