Public Benefits are Key! ABD and HEN – April 25th, 2024

Welcome Back to Public Benefits are Key!

Thanks for joining us for our latest update on the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) and Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) programs. Our friends Patricia Bowen from Solid Ground and Emma Hodgson of Catholic Community Services provided a thorough overview of program changes and tips for benefits advocacy.

Important Changes in 2024

  • Increased Financial Support: Monthly cash benefits have been raised to $450 for individuals and $570 for married couples.
  • Expanded Resource Limits: The liquid asset limit is now $12,000 (double the limit from last year) and excludes the value of one vehicle.

To get the full scoop watch the full training recording.

What is ABD?

ABD (Aged, Blind, and Disabled) is a state-administered cash assistance program for those unable to work due to age, blindness, or disability. It is a crucial bridge to more permanent federal benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Age 65+ or 18+ if visually impaired or physically/mentally disabled.
  • Ineligible if the disability is primarily due to substance use.
  • Residency in Washington and U.S. citizenship are required, with some exceptions.
  • Income limits: 
  • Individuals: $339 per month from non-employment sources or $678 from employment 
  • Couples: $428 per month from non-employment sources, or $856 from employment

Benefits:

  • Monthly cash payments – $450 for individuals and $570 for married couples
  • Assistance applying for SSI or SSDI.
  • Automatic referral to the HEN program for a housing subsidy (if available), public transit assistance, and basic needs.

Application:

  • Apply via WashingtonConnection.org, at DSHS offices, or by phone at 1-877-501-2233.
  • Apply in person at a DSHS CSO – locations available on the DSHS website
  • Apply over the phone – call 1-877-501-2233 (To avoid waiting on hold with DSHS, fill out the online application)
  • Complete the financial review and a disability assessment.

Tips:

  • Disclose all barriers affecting your work capacity.
  • Supporting letters from social workers, medical providers, or family can strengthen your case.
  • Keep applying for SSI or SSDI as long as necessary since ABD can be received during the SSI application process.

Responding to Denied or Terminated Benefits

Unfortunately, not everyone is immediately approved for ABD benefits; sometimes, those who have been approved might find their benefits terminated. Common reasons for denial or termination include:

  • Medical Evidence Issues: Required medical evidence not received by DSHS within 45 days of application, or the evidence provided is over 90 days old and considered “not current.”
  • Failure to Prove Disability: DSHS might deny claims due to “failure to prove disability” or “lack of objective evidence.”
  • Application Errors: Forms not completely or incorrectly filled out.
  • Implicit Bias: Potential biases from DSHS Social Workers or other personnel involved in the application process.
  • Perceived Ineligibility: Benefits may be terminated if DSHS perceives the recipient as no longer eligible.

To minimize the risk of denial or termination and navigate these challenges effectively, our friends at Solid Ground suggest:

While Applying:

  1. Designate an Authorized Representative: This person can help submit medical records, coordinate with DSHS, and attend interviews, which is especially helpful for those struggling with the process.
  2. Request an Equal Access Plan: If you have impairments or limitations that could impact your ability to meet typical application or program requirements, request adjustments or accommodations through an Equal Access Plan.

If Already Applied:

  • Maintain Compliance: Ensure you comply with any treatment requirements set by DSHS.
  • Report Changes Promptly: Inform DSHS of any household size, income, or resource changes by the 10th day of the following month. Uncertain what to report? Contact DSHS at 1-877-501-2233 or Benefits Legal Assistance at 206-694-6743 for guidance.

If Benefits Are Denied or Terminated:

  • Appeal the Decision: If your application is denied or your benefits are terminated, you have the right to request an administrative hearing to appeal the decision within 90 days of receiving notice.
  • For a detailed look at whether to re-apply or appeal and tips on avoiding pitfalls in the benefits process watch the training recording, or reach out to Solid Ground.

Resources:

  • Solid Ground Ask a Lawyer program at benefitslegalhelp[at]solidground[dot]org and include “Ask a Lawyer” in the subject line.
  • DSHS at 877-501-2233 or The Office of Administrative Hearings at 360-407-2700 or 800-583-8271

ABD and Social Security Disability Benefits:

ABD is a transitional program that provides immediate financial support while awaiting SSI or SSDI approval. A Social Security facilitator will assist with the SSI or SSDI application if approved for ABD.

You can contact the Benefits Law Center for federal cash assistance programs such as SSI or SSDI.

Benefits Law Center at (206) 686 – 7252 and info[at]benefitslawcenter[dot]org 

Also, please see our training recording and blog on SSI/SSDI.

What is HEN?

HEN (Housing and Essential Needs) addresses housing and essential needs for those unable to work due to a disability, including those affected by substance use, which ABD does not cover.



Eligibility Criteria:

  • Must be receiving ABD benefits or have zero income.
  • At least 18 years old.
  • Not receiving other cash benefits like TANF or unemployment (exceptions during the SSI application process).

Services Provided:

  • Essential needs support like transit passes and monthly hygiene kits.
  • Housing assistance, including $1000/month towards rent and utilities, move-in assistance, and emergency aid for rent or utilities 

NOTE: Housing benefits are currently unavailable to new clients due to limited funding. They encourage letting them know you would like to be considered as funding becomes available.

Accessing Services:

  1. Apply for ABD to determine eligibility.
  2. Contact Catholic Community Services at 206-328-5755 for enrollment details or visit the Phoenix Center at 2329 Rainier Ave S, Seattle 98144, for an intake appointment – operating hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 10 am-2 pm.

See the recording and slides for more information on all CCS programs and how they are working to build up their Rapid Rehousing Program for 2024.

Questions? Email HENKC[at]ccsww[dot]org.

Thanks for staying up-to-date on these cash assistance programs. We at the Coalition understand that they can be challenging to access and we hope these trainings are helpful. If you learned valuable info here and want to hear about future trainings you can sign up for our emails.