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Vulnerable Population Application Program (VPAP)

SSA has designated a new position in Field Offices (FOs) across the country, Vulnerable Populations Liaisons (VPLs).

About Vulnerable Populations Liaisons (VPLs)

Recently, many SOAR State and Local Leaders participated in calls with all 10 SSA Regional Communication offices to learn about Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) new Vulnerable Population Application Program (VPAP) (also called “People Facing Barriers” and “Third Party Application Taking”) initiative. 

SSA has been working with community organizations and groups to identify new ways to improve access to services for the most vulnerable populations. As a result, SSA has designated a new position in Field Offices (FOs) across the country, Vulnerable Populations Liaisons (VPLs). VPLs will work with organizations in local communities to help often-underserved individuals who may not have been able to access Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and aged benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic due to SSA FO closures. The VPL will work directly with organizations that commit to helping file SSI claims or providing information sufficient to protect a claimant for benefits at the earliest date possible (Protective File Date).

We are sharing this opportunity from SSA which may help individuals who cannot be served through the SOAR model because of certain circumstances. For example:  

  • Individual does not meet SOAR eligibility criteria, e.g., not experiencing or at risk of homelessness but fits in 1 or more other vulnerable population categories
  • Agency lacks capacity due to high case worker turnover
  • No SOAR-trained case workers available
  • Individual does not meet agency criteria for SOAR representation 

For providers in communities where SOAR is not available, this is a tremendous opportunity for a partner organization to have direct access to a Social Security employee to help potential applicants. 

Who is eligible for VPAP Assistance?

The VPL will ensure that SSA provides quality and compassionate service to the most vulnerable communities who experience challenges in contacting SSA due to physical or language barriers, medical conditions, or inadequate access to the internet. SSA developed this initiative in part to increase SSI application taking for these 7 categories of identified vulnerable populations: 

  • The aged (65 old without disabilities)
  • Children with disabilities
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness
  • Individuals diagnosed with mental illness
  • Individuals with limited English proficiency
  • Individuals recently released from incarcerations
  • Veterans

What Does the Vulnerable Population Liaison (VPL) Do?

Every partner who agrees to work with SSA under this campaign is assigned a Vulnerable Populations Liaison (VPL).  Training on how to complete SSA’s applications and forms is conducted by SSA’s Public Affairs Specialists.

Key Differences between VPAP and the SOAR Model

  • SSI applications submitted via VPAP are not expedited like SOAR-assisted claims
  • VPAP is only for initial SSI applications (not SSDI, no appeals or post-entitlement issues)
  • VPL liaisons do not act as SSA-1696 representatives who gather medical records, obtain collateral information, and follow-up with the DDS examiner
  •  VPAP will not provide the same high level of SOAR engagement and support 
  • VPAP training is approximately 2 hours versus the 20 hour SOAR Online Course 

SSA’s VPAP Will Not:

  • replace your SSA FO SOAR liaison. You will continue to communicate with your SOAR point of contact or Public Affairs Specialist (PAS). 
  • interfere with any SOAR Processes already in place, or to be established. This is a separate initiative!  

Use the SOAR Model When:

  • You can represent the applicant using the SOAR Critical Components
  • The applicant is eligible for SSDI 
  • The applicant’s case is at the reconsideration/ALJ level
  • You are assisting with a Continuing Disability Review or age 18 redetermination
  • A SOAR Process is in place or is in the process of being established.

For more information:

  • You are encouraged to reach out to your SOAR State Lead, Local Lead, or SAMHSA SOAR TA Center liaison who can provide specific information about your local SSA VPL contact or other SOAR and SSA collaboration issues!  
  • Social Security’s outreach campaign includes online tools and informational pages that organizations can use and refer to, including outreach materials for partner groups working with people who face barriers.