Public Benefits are Key! ABD and HEN – Sept. 29th, 2022

Welcome back, Members!

Welcome, members, to our second training on ABD and HEN programs. We had fantastic program details and advocacy advice from:

  • Hannah Rosenberger, Benefits Attorney at Solid Ground
  • Sara Robbins, former Benefits Attorney at Solid Ground and current Senior Policy Manager at The Coalition on Homelessness
  • Teresa Dillard, HEN Division Director at Catholic Community Services of Western WA
  • Trisha Matthieu, TEN Project Manager at Catholic Community Services of Western WA

Check out a recording of our training below!

What is ABD?

The Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) program is a cash assistance program facilitated by DSHS. In addition to cash benefits, ABD provides assistance applying for SSI and creates an automatic referral to the HEN program (Housing and Essential Needs) – more on that later!

To be eligible for ABD, a person needs to be 65 or older, visually impaired, blind, OR having a physical or mental disability that prevents them from working for at least 12 months.

They must also have income of less than $339 per month for one-person household or $428 per month for a two-person household if income is unearned (from unemployment, Social Security, or other sources). If income is earned (wages from employment), a one-person household must earn less than $678 per month, two-person households earning less than $856. If the income is self-employment or gig economy you should “ask a lawyer” by emailing

There can be many challenges with the application or renewal process. For full guidance, review the meeting recording. Here are a few highlights:

  • A client can’t get SSI and ABD at the same time
  • Applicants are eligible for ABD if they have range of physical and mental disabilities, however not if the disability is related to substance use
  • Applicants CAN work and qualify for ABD, but income limits apply
  • Evidence that a person cannot be gainfully employed can be provided by lots of sources, such as a physician, social worker, mental health professional, naturopath, chiropractor, PT, or CDP
  • Advocates for an applicant can attend interviews, assist with gathering records, and scheduling psychological evaluations

Have questions about ABD, or do you have a client who has been denied or terminated? Contact the Solid Ground Ask a Lawyer program at

What is HEN?

The Housing & Essential Needs Program (HEN) provides access to housing, utilities, and basic needs assistance for those who are unable to work due to disability.

Beneficiaries are considered eligible by DSHS, and then will have to contact Catholic Community Services to coordinate services, if available.

To be eligible for HEN, a person must already receive ABD benefits OR be unable to work for at least 90 days due to physical or mental disability (includes those unable to work due to Substance Use Disorder). They must also be at least 18 years old and maintain income levels lower than ABD limits (see the “What is ABD?” section).

HEN benefits in King County include $1000/month in rent and utility assistance and limited move-in assistance, back rent, and back utility assistance. Catholic Community Services also disburses basic needs items, ORCA LIFT cards, and provides access to case management.

HEN enrollment is currently closed to new applicants. New clients will likely be able to apply in Spring 2023. Stay tuned for more information about the end of the HEN waiver!

However, Catholic Community Services is still offering  basic needs items, transportation assistance, and referrals to other services to qualifying applicants who contact Catholic Community Services.

Lots of discussion took place around HEN and resource access. Here are a few highlights:

  • Clients currently receiving HEN benefits may have to check eligibility if they expect to maintain benefits, as beneficiaries will be re-evaluated starting in November
  • HEN housing benefits are not eligible to those with Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
  • Those with Housing Choice Voucher can still get transportation and basic supply support from HEN
  • ORCA LIFT cards can be accessed to anyone receiving SSI, ABD, PWA (Pregnant Women’s Assistance), Refugee Assistance, HEN, or TANF.

Thank you!

Thanks to all of the community members and advocates who support out youth experiencing homelessness – make sure to look for future training opportunities on our Professional Development page.