Public Benefits are Key! Disability Deep Dive (ABD, SSI, and SSDI) – June 28th, 2023

Welcome Back to Public Benefits are Key!

This special training is brought to you by two special guests: Hannah Rosenberger from Solid Ground’s Benefits Legal Assistance program and Huy Nguyen from Benefits Law Center. They joined us to take a deeper dive into state and federal-level disability benefits. For more information on the basics of these programs, check out our ABD/HEN recap blog and our SSI/SSDI recap blog.

Review our training recording on YouTube for a full recap and audience Q&A!

Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) Program: Subsidy Extensions and New Client Support

This housing subsidy program is a major benefit for low-income, ABD-eligible Washingtonians. Hannah emphasized that it is only available while receiving ABD benefits, with some exceptions.

Once SSI benefits are approved and ABD benefits end, HEN benefits also end. However, limited rental assistance is available on a temporary basis through Catholic Community Service even after ABD benefits end. Unfortunately, transportation and basic needs benefits cannot continue once SSI benefits commence.

Community members have also been curious about extending support to new clients. While there is not enough funding to expand caseloads, Catholic Community Services is working to verify eligibility of clients so they may serve more new clients.

For more info, reach out to your HEN Case Manager or the King County HEN Resource Line at 206-328-5755.

Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) Benefits: Resource Limits, Application Tips, and Co-Occurring Disorders

This cash benefits program is available to low-income, disabled Washingtonians as they are in the process of applying for SSI or SSDI benefits.

Hannah shared some exciting updates which have been made to this program’s resource limits! Starting Feb. 1st, 2024, applicants are eligible for ABD if they have up to $12,000 in resources (up from $6,000), and to have the value of one car removed from resource calculation.

Hannah also recognized that the application process can be challenging to get through. She took the time to break it down into what to expect.

Step 1 is the Financial Interview, where an applicant will talk with a DSHS Caseworker over the phone or in-person at a DSHS CSO to confirm the information on their application.

Step 2 is the Social Worker Interview, which requires a more in-depth conversation where an applicant must share more details about any physical and mental conditions that would verify eligibility for benefits – this verifies eligibility by establishing the barriers of a person’s conditions to employment. It is important that you be thorough when sharing information about conditions and any providers they have consulted with – the social worker will request records from these providers.

Remember that as a client advocate, you can attend either of these interviews with the applicant, and facilitate the submission of medical records, calling for additional evaluations.

Hannah also touched on clients who have co-occurring disorders, such as substance use disorder (SUD). A person cannot be disqualified due to SUD, but they can be denied if SUD is found to be the primary cause of disability. If approved, a beneficiary may be required to participate in treatment for SUD to maintain benefits.

Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) Benefits: “Proving” Disability, Client Advocacy, and Appeals

Hannah recognized that requiring proof of disability can be taxing one but is necessary to receive ABD benefits. To prove disability, an applicant must provide evidence of diagnoses AND how those diagnoses impact their ability to perform regular and continuous work activity.

DSHS must assist an applicant in requesting or paying for medical records, exams, or evaluations to provide evidence of diagnoses – make sure to make this request if you need!

Don’t want to wait for DSHS to provide evaluation forms? Check out these links for the Physical Evaluation form and Mental Health Evaluation form. Only some practitioners are accredited to give a diagnosis and prove inability to work – check out the slides above to ensure your provider is accredited.

Providers, advocates, and peers can provide Letters of Support that can greatly assist in proving disability and its impact on ability to work. Make sure to highlight your relationship to the applicant, your awareness of symptoms, and any specific examples of how they affect a person’s ability to work. Check out the slides or YouTube video for examples.

Hannah also addressed the option of re-applying for benefits versus appealing if denied. If an applicant is denied on grounds that they agree with, but circumstances have changed, Hannah recommends reapplying. However, if they are denied for reasons, they feel are unfair or unfounded, Hannah recommends appealing! For more information on appeals, you can contact:

  • DSHS at 877-501-2233 or
  • The Office of Administrative Hearings at 360-407-2700 or 800-583-8271

*Do you have questions for your client applying for ABD? Need help challenging a denial, termination, or sanction? Providers can contact Solid Ground’s Ask a Lawyer Program at benefitslegalhelp[at]solidground[dot]org  – include “ask a lawyer” in the subject line – or call 206-694-6742.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): Resources Limits, Resource Limits, Helpful Forms, and Necessary Application Info

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits are vital cash benefit programs for those who are aged, blind, or disabled AND low-income or those who have earned a minimum number of work credits. Both social security disability benefits are authorized by the federal government, and because of the slow application processing times which can take years, ABD and HEN benefits are offered in the interim.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has stringent and unique rules about financial eligibility, income limits, and resource limits. To read more about these, check out our SSI/SSDI training recap blog or hear more scenario examples in our YouTube video. If an applicant has been approved but exceeds their resource limit, they must liquidate said resource within 9 months or risk suspension of benefits. The SSA also limits how a person can spend their additional resources to specific purposes, such as home purchase, education expenses, or debt payment. Huy emphasized that income and resource limits are important to observe, as exceeding said limits can lock a beneficiary out of payments for up to three years!

As mentioned in our previous blog, applicants can apply online or at your local SSA office. Huy shared that there are certain documents that can help prepare an applicant prepare. These include:

Huy also highlighted several pieces of information that can ease one’s application. These include:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Info relating to marriages and divorces
  • Employment info for the past three years and past 15 years of job history
  • Banking information
  • Info related to education and training
  • Info about medical treatment

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): Contacting the SSA and Repayment Requirements

It can be hard to reach SSA offices! Even calling local offices, Huy advised that you can expect a wait of several hours, however calling the national hotline can take even longer. Calling is preferred by many over visiting in person, which can take 6-8 hours. He was generous enough to share contact info for many Puget Sound SSA offices.

  • Metro Seattle (2nd Ave): 866-494-3135
  • North Seattle (Aurora): 866-931-2875
  • Kent (Ramsay Way): 866-931-7671
  • Burien (156th St): 866-964-7380
  • Bellevue (120th Ave): 866-574-2323
  • Lynnwood (33rd Ave): 877-575-5197
  • Everett (Broadway): 866-563-4595
  • Tacoma (47th St): 888-487-9229

Huy also recommends copying important documents and getting receipts for any mail or fax correspondence sent to the SSA, as documents may be lost, which may be blamed on the applicant.

An exciting update! Due to the efforts of many of our public benefits advocates, starting in 2025, newly eligible SSI recipients will no longer have to repay ABD benefits! This has been the norm for ABD beneficiaries and method to build wealth and reduce socio-economic instability for vulnerable community members! Read more at this link.

*Do you or a client need help applying for or maintaining Social Security disability benefits? Contact Benefits Law Center! Call (206) 686-7252 or email info[at]benefitslawcenter[dot]org.