Meet John: Applying for Benefits Story

In Benefits Application Stories, Stories by Priscilla Matthews

He lived with his mother in a back room of her house until she died in 2008. After her death, he became homeless and has mostly lived in his car. At times he has stayed at a community emergency shelter, but stays are limited to 60 days per year. He has been to jail a few times.

John has no health insurance, but is able to get basic care and medications at the local FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Clinic). He has seen a psychologist there a few times.

John was referred to ERI’s Community Benefit Specialist (CBS) by staff at the clinic. The CBS team and clinic staff often work together on cases. The CBS met with John to discuss his options and then started the process of filing for benefits.

Here are some of the actions taken to improve John’s situation:

  • First, they applied for FoodShare so that John could have extra money to buy food.
  • John needed a place to stay so they completed an application for a Transitional Housing Program.
  • The CBS interviewed him about the questions for Social Security Benefits and applied for him online. The CBS was able to receive copies of notices from Social Security for John which was important because John had no reliable mailing address.
  • Over the next several months, they worked together to complete reports and provide information to the Disability Determination Bureau (DDB).
  • The CBS interviewed people who know John and sent that information to the DDB. The CBS requested medical records and wrote a detailed letter of support based on interactions with John, information from the medical records, and contacts with people who know John.
  • The CBS worked with John’s psychologist to complete a report for the DDB. After 6 months, John’s application for benefits was denied, and the CBS filed a Request for Reconsideration. John was encouraged to keep going to his medical appointments and continue to gather and submit evidence to the DDB.

UPDATE: After a few months, John’s application was finally approved for SSDI (Social Security Disability Benefits). His Medicare coverage will not start for two years, and he needed a way to pay for his medication. With the CBS’s help, he applied for the Medicaid Purchase Plan and set up an informal work arrangement at the temporary housing program where he was staying. The next month his Medicaid was approved, and now he has a stable income from SSDI and health insurance coverage. Now he can apply to live in a room at a homeless service provider that requires tenants to pay rent.

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