Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) make a tremendous difference in the lives of Americans with disabilities and their families. If you’re experiencing homelessness, these benefits can not only ensure you have a steady source of income, but may also help you get your own place and keep up with the rent.
Benefits include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Dependent upon your work history and your current financial circumstances, you may qualify through both of these programs.
SSDI and SSI Benefit Eligibility
To qualify for SSI, you must have very limited income and other financial resources. Your odds of SSI approval are high as someone who is experiencing homelessness, though you must still meet the SSA other eligibility requirements. These include having a qualifying disability that will keep you from earning a substantial living for 12 months or longer.
SSDI benefits are for disabled workers who paid into the Social Security system through taxes. Provided you have worked in the past 10 years and you have sufficient work credits built up from paying Social Security taxes, you may additionally receive SSDI.
Challenges for Applicants Without a Fixed Address
- Your Application Address – To file for benefits, you need a permanent address at which you can receive communications from the SSA. Any mailing address will suffice, as long as you can quickly and consistently receive notice that you’ve gotten mail from the SSA. Churches, shelters, social services offices, and family members are just a few options for how you can get your SSA notices.
- Building Sufficient Medical Records – Benefit approval hinges on having appropriate medical documentation of your disability. For many people experiencing homelessness and other low-income applicants, financial restrictions may prevent regular doctor visits. Free clinics and other low cost or sliding scale medical facilities are one way to build your medical history. Just keep in mind that you need a doctor rather than a nurse practitioner as your primary healthcare provider. The SSA may also order consultative exams once you apply for benefits. A consultative exam can help fill in gaps in your medical history.
- Benefit Payment Account – To receive payments through SSI and/or SSDI, you must have an account with a bank or sign up for a Direct Express debit card with the SSA, because all benefits are now transferred electronically each month. The staff at the local SSA office can help you apply for Direct Express. You can also sign up for direct deposit to a bank account or for a Direct Express card from any internet-connected computer.
You can submit your disability application online. If you’re living in a shelter or other transitional housing, you may or may not have access to the internet. Any internet-connected computer will do though, so you can even file from a social services office, a local church, a library computer, or with the help of a staff at the shelter in which you currently reside.
Social Security offices are located in all major cities and many smaller communities as well. You can walk in to any office to apply for benefits. Just be sure to let the SSA staff member that helps you know about your living situation. He or she can assist with navigating the application process and help you figure out how to overcome some of the unique challenges you’ll face.
For a list of Social Security offices in Massachusetts, please go to https://www.ssa.gov/boston/MA.htm.