Guest post by a Florida SOAR Provider
Two years ago this past April, we started the Hillsborough County Health Care Services SOAR unit in Florida with the vision of serving the needs of our indigent clients experiencing or at risk of homelessness while working towards becoming one of the best SOAR groups in the country. Recently, while reviewing our outcomes in SOAR’s Online Application Tracking (OAT), I began reflecting on our progress and reminiscing on the many clients we have had the pleasure to help with SOAR.
On initial applications, we are at an 84 percent approval rate with an average of 62 days to decision, and our reconsideration approval rate is 75 percent with an average of 84 days to decision. Compared to the 2018 national average of 65 percent approval for initial applications in an average 100 days to decision and 42 percent approval for reconsiderations in an average of 141 days, I would say we are on our way towards that ambitious goal we set 2 years ago. This achievement has been possible thanks to our hardworking and talented team of SOAR Case Managers, the resources and training provided by the SOAR community, the cooperative clients who partner with us as we embark on the SOAR process together, and the motivating reports supplied by the SOAR OAT program along the way. Watching that approval rate percentage climb and the average days to decision number drop as we entered cases into OAT throughout the years kept us driven and inspired to push through the challenges and assist our clients in receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
This goal has been important because it has led to life-changing transformations for the clients we have had the pleasure of helping. Eight of the clients we assisted have received five-figure retroactive back payments averaging over $16,000. One client, in particular, went from staying in a shelter to being awarded SSDI and housed in her own apartment with a $20,000 retroactive back payment she can rely on as a safety net to hopefully prevent her from ever experiencing homelessness again. In many cases, SOAR has brought hope to the clients who had lost hope; those who had applied for benefits in the past and waited years only to have their SSI/SSDI applications denied. One client we assisted had over 3 years, been denied on the initial application, reconsideration, and at the administrative law judge hearing. With the assistance of one of our SOAR Case Managers on a new application, she was awarded SSI with only 34 days to decision.
I can confidently say that SOAR Works and OAT helps!