Public Benefits Assistance with SSI/SSDI Applications

At White Bird, our SOAR-trained Public Benefits Advocate provides assistance to eligible individuals in completing thorough, quality SSDI/SSI applications. The focus is on individuals who are homeless and at risk of homelessness who experience mental health and/or physical health conditions. These services are offered free of charge.

A screening process helps to determine potential eligibility based on many various factors like work history, income, marital status, and resources. The application itself can take a couple of hours to fill out, and it’s important to have all the information ready prior to applying. Potential clients should anticipate meeting with the Benefits Advocate 3-5 times before actually completing the application.

The Benefits Advocate can assist clients in obtaining information, but it will make things go faster if the client has the following information:

  • List of medical sources that have treated the client, with strong focus on the last two years’ records
    • Sources can include: primary care doctors, hospitals and ERs, behavioral health hospitals, mental health counselors, psychiatrists, corrections facilities, education records, vocational rehab or job training programs, social services agencies
  • A list of tests or procedures ordered (x-rays, MRIs, mental health assessments, etc.)
  • A list of medications prescribed (if applicable)
  • The last 15 years’ work history

What the Public Benefits Advocate Can Do:

  • Acts as a representative on the claim – allows the benefits advocate to speak to the Social Security Administration and Disability Determination Services (SSA and DDS) on the client’s behalf. Also receives copies of all correspondence sent to the claimant; can be a consistent point contact person for SSA/DDS.
  • Requests medical records with the claimant’s permission.
  • Assists the claimant in navigating the disability application process, including help filling out reports and responding to requests from SSA/DDS.
  • Makes referrals for other White Bird programs/services, as well as other community resources
  • Helps claimants file a reconsideration for a denied claim (for clients who have already filed an initial claim with the benefits advocate)
  • Make referrals to disability attorneys when appropriate (reconsiderations and Administrative Law Judge hearings).

What the Benefits Advocate Can’t Do:

  • Cannot do it without the client! It is vital that the client stays involved in the process and maintains communication with the Benefits Advocate. MANY disability claims get denied simply because the claimant does not maintain contact or respond to requests from SSA/DDS
  • Cannot guarantee approval on a claim. We screen clients for various eligibility factors and work with people who have a strong chance of being approved, but it is SSA/DDS that makes a determination of disability status.
  • Cannot “expedite” or otherwise speed up the process. We can help the claimant put together a complete application and proactively fill out reports in advance of them being requested, but the agencies that make the decisions are often dealing with a backlog of applications and sometimes things move slowly.
  • Cannot see into SSA’s or DDS’s systems or files. The benefits advocate does not work for SSA or other governmental agencies; the benefits advocate can communicate SSA/DDS and confirm that these agencies have what they need, but does not have direct access to the records.
  • Cannot help apply for other benefits/services – SSI/SSDI only. (No Section 8, housing/rental assistance, SNAP, energy assistance, phones, IDs, birth certificates, etc.)

*SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is a national program designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.

For more information and to set up an appointment, please contact Meaghan Taylor, Public Benefits Advocate, at 541-246-2334 or mtaylor@whitebirdclinic.org.

White Bird’s Help Book Has Been Hacked

Last weekend, White Bird Clinic had the good fortune to participate in Hack for a Cause, a local technology competition to build solutions to provide transformative public benefit. Over 200 participants volunteered to put their coding and software skills to the test and 11 non-profits offered up their problems to solve. The one we selected was the community help directory. White Bird’s Performance Coordinator Alan Glick describes what we were hoping for in the following video.

Three teams of volunteers worked around the clock, exploring how our paper Help Book could become an accessible online database. Each of the solutions they presented were beyond our expectations and the community networking opportunities planted seeds for future projects with some of the other non-profit challengers.

screen shot

Demo Start Screen

Joshua, sent us a comment after the event: “I want to say, after really getting to know this data, this is an amazing resource, and I am honored to be able to help make it better.”

We will continue to develop this digital Help Book website with our partners for a 2019 release. We are so thankful for the support from the Technology Association of Oregon for making this hack possible.

Until then, you can support our work by ordering the 2018 edition Help Book and joining us at the Lane County Medical Society building at 990 W. 7th Avenue to pick up your book(s) and have lunch with us on Friday, April 27 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm to celebrate 40 years of local, human service information referral and see what’s next for Lane County’s Help Book.

Jill Heiman Vision Fund Helps White Bird Clinic Provide Cold Weather Gear

Living on the streets is even harder without a sleeping bag. Thanks to a generous donation from the Jill Heiman Vision Fund, White Bird Clinic greatly increased our supply of cold weather gear during the coldest months of 2017-2018. When the weather turns to rain and sleet, unhoused residents of Lane County come to our clinic seeking warm clothing and bedding. We used funds to bulk order some of our most requested items.

Tarps, sleeping bags, socks, gloves, and hats are vital for people living outdoors in cold weather. White Bird collects donated items every year from community partners and supporters, but these unfortunately are never quite enough to meet community need. The Jill Heiman funds enabled us to buy items efficiently, in large quantities. We purchased 480 tarps, 320 sleeping bags, 2,550 pairs of socks, 240 pairs of gloves, and 240 knit winter hats. Most of these items have already been dispersed to folks in need, and the remaining stock will be depleted well before the cold weather ends.

Three of our departments distributed the grant funded purchases. Front Rooms, a respite and light day use resource in Eugene, distributed most of the items. Case managers from the Homeless department accessed gear for their clients. Some supplies, particularly sleeping bags, were distributed by CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets), White Bird’s mobile crisis service. The people who received gear were mostly unhoused residents in neighborhoods on the east side of Eugene, though some reached people in the greater Eugene/Springfield metro area.

White Bird is a collective environment organized to enable people to gain control of their social, emotional and physical well-being through direct service, education and community. We greatly appreciate the kind and expedient support we’ve received from the Jill Heiman Fund both for this project, and in the past. You helped us provide critically needed winter wear for Lane County’s unhoused and underserved community members.

Many thanks to the Jill Heiman Fund Committee and our beloved Fair Family!