Disability, General, Retirement

Lend a Helping Hand and You Can Make a Difference

July 21, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

homelessLife can change in the blink of an eye. One moment you live in a warm, safe place; the next moment you can find yourself without a roof over your head.

Who do you turn to? Where can you go?

This is a reality for millions of Americans every day. Fortunately, we can help — but we need your help. If you know of someone in your community who is homeless, you can let them know they’re not in it alone. Social Security provides services to the homeless.

People who are homeless can apply for benefits and, if found eligible, can have their benefits deposited directly into a personal banking account, a Direct Express debit bankcard, or another electronic account. They can also have their benefits sent to a third party or, if necessary, a representative payee can receive their funds.

Social Security also works with other agencies to help the homeless. At our website, you can learn more about the Health Care for the Homeless program that provides grants to a network of local public and non-profit private organizations. Social Security participates in the Federal Inter-agency Reentry Council, as well as the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program. PATH helps people with serious mental health issues or people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Homelessness is a complicated and emotional. It is tough to think of a relative or a friend living in this kind of reality. It happens more often than we like it to think but as a community and nation, we can help. Educating our community is the first step. Visit our website to learn about the safety net that Social Security provides.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. tony

    Social Security disability caused the substance abuse and obesity epidemic.

    Now they want to give away disability to the poor and homeless.

    I heard rumors that a homeless man rode his bicycle to the local field office, filled out an application for disability and was approved.

    I went and applied to see if this was true. I applied without any doctor, hospital, medical treatment, and medicine. I got approved and collecting that free disability money now.

    • Ray F.

      The Social Security Administration pays benefits to eligible people who cannot longer work because of a disabling mental or physical condition expected to last at least one year or to result in death. The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability and those who qualify based on our strict definition of disability are among the most severely disabled people in the country. In addition, we conduct “Continuing Disability Reviews” from time to time to make sure the individuals receiving checks are still eligible to get them. For more information, visit our Disability Planner: How We Decide If You Are Disabled.

      • tony

        The Federal Courts have interpret the law stating that a person cannot be denied benefits if they are too poor to obtain medical treatment. “A claimant should not be penalized for failing to seek medical treatment that she could not afford because she did not have insurance coverage. ” Pierce v. Astrue, 946 F. Supp. 2d 296 – Dist. Court, WD New York 2013
        946 F.Supp.2d 296 (2013)

        It would be one of the good cause for failure to follow prescribed treatment. I could cite all the loopholes in the law, but then you would have too many lazy freeloaders and who would take my order at McDonald.

      • tony

        Mental disability is a joke. The SSA doesn’t even know the strict definition of disabled for mental disability.

        SSA – POMS: DI 25020.010 – Mental Limitations – 09/14/2012

        NOTE: “Substantial loss” cannot be precisely defined. It does not necessarily relate to any particular adjective, number, or percentage.

        If the SSA cannot precisely define Substantial Loss, then they would lose in Federal Court.

    • Retiree

      You are lying same as that man.

  2. tony

    If Social Security wants to help the homeless, then bring back the disability benefits for people with alcohol and drug addiction. Many of them would qualify.

    • DrGonzo888

      Huh ? for real ?

    • Retiree

      Everyone would become an alcoholic and a drug addict, if that was to happen, so keep dreaming.

  3. tony

    All this entitlement program is going to bankrupt Social Security. The US is borrowing money like crazy. It’s debt is huge. Imagine what will happen when the US cannot borrow money anymore and has to reduce it’s debt.

    The US debt is increasing faster than Social Security disability. The US will go over $20 trillion within the next four years and will be pressured to make a lot of cut.

    A lot of federal workers will be getting pink slips. They will probably be applying for Social Security disability.

    The Social Security Commissioner will get chewed out asking for more money in 2023 for Social Security disability without reducing it’s roll significantly.

    The US is so broke that it can’t bail out Puerto Rico $70 billion debt. There are a bunch of disability fraudsters in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has the highest approval rate at the ALJ level. Government and it’s people are corrupt there.

  4. Norma

    It is sad that our own gov. Can’t provide assistance or direction for people that are destitute–jobless — why don’t we have food kitchens and free transportation to any medical assistance — and four corners N. S. W. E. assistance location. . Also – as well as 4 corners NSWE — S. S. SECURITY Offices — to serve people that do not have transportation or live too far . The expenses would be lower as well as the crowded and long lines , plus waiting 45 min to 4 hrs to be seen for 10 to 25 min..or more… Our system is not working!!!!!

  5. Joe F.

    I’ve been on SSDI since I was 54 and it’s been very hard getting the correct answers to questions..ie..What % did the SSA hold back for having to take my Social Security at such a young age. I’ve heard absolutely nothing was held back from me..this is very hard to believe. I also have been told 33% – 40%..The whole gist of what I Believe is that Whatever My Total Amount was is what I deserved to be given. No if’s and’s or butt’s, this is Our Money and Not the Governments…

    • anonymous.contributor

      When you get retirement benefits, SSA uses a formula that considers your highest 35 years of earnings between age 22 and 62, and benefits are paid accordingly. The wages in the various years are “indexed” to account for inflation. Thus your early years of employment will count more towards your retirement benefits than you might initially think.

      The SSIDI benefits you took were calculated using a similar formula. However, the formula is modified to focus on the years you were able to work. Thus SSIDI essentually pays you now what you would have been able receive if you had been able to keep working and you waited to take benefits at full retirement age. More information here: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-much-social-security-disability-ssdi-benefits-can-you-get.html

      So the answer is no, your benefits were not purposely reduced in any way just because took SSDI at an early age. Of course if instead of becoming disabled, you had been instantly promoted to a much higher-paying job, then your full retirement age benefits probably would have been substantially higher than your SSDI is now. Conversely, if instead of becoming disabled you had found yourself unemployed for the rest of your life, your full retirement age benefits would have suffered, and you did much better drawing SSDI now.

      This brings up another important point: If you continue to receive SSDI up to your full retirement age, your SSDI benefits will convert to retirement benefits. The benefit amount will not change other than as it does sometimes now due to cost-of-living increases. I hope you find this answer enlightening. Cheers.

      • Anky b.

        I have my email address be published

        • Anky b.

          I have to be published

    • Jean

      SSA disability benefits (payable at any age up to Full Retirement Age) are basically figured as if the person suddenly attained Full Retirement Age, so there is no reduction in benefits. If a person files, instead, for retirement at ages 62 up to Full Retirement Age, the retirement benefits are reduced.

  6. Gladys

    OMG, So sad to see all this complains, It is not the SSA that I know.

    • Anky b.

      I have to mail to be published

  7. Manuel S.

    There seems to be a general misconception about Social Security and benefits available for its consumers.
    It may be an Idea for the Social Security Administration to begin having Orientations every morning before attending individual customers; weeding out ones in the wrong place for a wrong service, and providing a briefing on SS services, and benefits, then re-directing customers to the more appropriate services.
    Bringing in an expert for each Social Service most readily of concern to daily customers may be an answer as a Social Services Prevention Innovation Service as a priority ???.

  8. jorian r.

    I have a mentally ill son who is an adult . He was recently released from a mental inst, in another state. On fri june 25th went to the local office and was told that no one could see us because they were short staff because of the holiday. went back on Wednesday 29th and was told that it was again to busy because of the holiday. In meantime was given another appointment for july 19th at 9:00 so we go to the office however was told that our 9:00 appointment must be rescheduled because the rep had a 10:00 and a 11:00. Point taken the rep had already called the house at 9:33. which is 33 minutes after the actual appoint. once we did get back to the agent room she started to be very agitated for no apparent reason. I could see the rep that we saw on the 29the making gestures as if to tell this rep He’s the one. I feel that my son was not wanted in the office so we were pushed around, He lost his certification when he went in the mental inst. So he has to re apply. He has no one to stay with but grand mother and myself. He was treated like he was the Walking Dead. A person cant help if they have mental problems and should be treated with dignity just like anyone else coming into the office for help. Just wanted to report the tactless treatment of a citizen.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Jorian. We apologize for the situation you and your son experienced in one of our field offices, and we certainly understand your frustration. We regret that we did not provide you with the quality of service you and your son expect and deserve. We value our customers and understand how important it is to offer exceptional service. You can request to speak with the local office manager to report any deficiencies in our services. We appreciate your feedback, and thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  9. Anonymous c.

    Doug, don’t be so sanctimonious. Social Security is itself causing a significant percentage of our nation’s homeless problem by making it virtually impossible for many needy people to manage their affairs with SSA. How? By closing offices that aren’t in urban centers, and instead making people wait for hours on the SSA 800# for agents that are only good at reading scripts. Usually these employees don’t really know much, and they don’t seem to be trained or authorized to do any but the most routine tasks.

    What makes closing local offices worse is that SSA insists on using often virtually impossible to meet telephone ID standards. This presents a special hardship for those that have relocated frequently or for those that have cognitive/vision/hearing issues (but who can otherwise handle their own affairs). I am told some 15+% of the callers to the national 800# can’t be ID’d because SSA agents use no common sense in soliciting answers during the ID process, and this number is climbing. SSA agents use an extremely rigid ID process before assisting clients, and when the caller can’t meet this standard, SSA agents tell the caller that SSA can’t help them today because the ID provided was “insufficient” (purposely no clue is given as to the nature of the ID problem). For example, if a caller provides a “current” address that is not in SSA’s records, agents won’t ask if the caller recently moved or even how long they have been at the address they provided. The situation is even worse if the client asks to change their direct deposit information, as the client is asked to give the current routing number SSA is using, and due to bank mergers and takeovers, this information as it appears in SSA’s record, while still operational/usable, is obsolete and no longer the routing number the bank would provide as the correct one for the account. Thus often SSA often refuses to change its clients’ direct deposit information timely, and especially for those already behind on their rent, the result is sometimes homelessness.

    Another reason agents often provide for refusing assistance to callers is due to the ID process being “compromised”. This often occurs when a caller commits the offense of getting verbal help in providing the address SSA has on file from a friend or relative that is nearby (instead of the caller reading this address from an envelope instead). SSA does not appear to give consideration to the fact that many older and disabled people have vision, hearing, and memory issues, and often such people are forced to move between unfamiliar addresses staying wherever they can due to medical or financial issues.

    Then there is the disability claim denial rate. Approximately 80% of disability claims are initially denied, but if you pay an attorney $6k to say “hello” to the judge (the attorneys often do little more), go through bankruptcy, through years of poverty & appeals, then about 80% of these same claims eventually get approved back to the originally alleged onset date! Even once approved, it then takes months just to get your 1st monthly payment, and it is almost guaranteed that any retro-pay that is owed will be further delayed in red tape for many additional months (often even if there is no SSI entitlement involved, but a prior SSI record simply exists).

    Worse, when you ask SSA how soon you may have access to your past-due money so that you might pay your creditors and move to a tenable place, you are given unrealistic timeframes that often won’t really be met. Later the excessive delay is explained with platitudes about excessive workloads. It seems nobody can (or will) give you an realistic answer about how much longer your retro-payment might be delayed, and as a result it often feels like the delay is due to inefficiency, ineptness, & SSA personnel that care care only that THEIR paycheck is on time. Few SSA agents show real compassion. Any that do seem to disappear quickly, probably because actually trying to help clients navigate the overly-complex system instead of just telling them anything to move the line along brings down the wrath of SSA’s bean-counting management (who deems such an employee non-productive). The result of this is a circular cycle that hurts real service delivery and productivity, and it also tends to leave only uncaring amoral employees that would never make it servicing the public in the private sector.

    SSA has additional internal problems that often disadvantage its clients. For example, letters are often sent asking SSI clients to call in to their worker, but the telephone numbers provided are never answered. When the client then “fails to respond”, SSA then cuts off the benefits (and the client is often left homeless before SSA has time to reinstate benefits). Also, records often become full of erroneous information, even if the client does manage to do their part in reporting changes. This is especially true with SSI and multiple entitlement households, where updated information provided to SSA often updates only some of the affected records. The result of this is overpayments and underpayments on those records that didn’t get updated, which SSA then blames on the client. Apparently SSA’s software isn’t capable of recognizing and updating all affected records at the same time, or employees are racing through their assigned workloads so fast that they don’t notice or care that there are other client records also affected.

    The whole system described above is a national disgrace, at least as bad as the VA scandal that in recent years has gone public (and that like SSA’s problems, was well-known by its clientele). The only things that SSA has been doing particularly well is to hide the above issues from the general public and to not focus on its rather blatant service delivery problems. From what I hear, SSA’s current acting commissioner is a decent sort, so I suspect much of the above has been hidden from her. I hope she reads this, and that she then takes time to visit some offices and assist some clients herself, so that she sees some of the issues many of SSA’s clients are unnecessarily being forced to deal with.

    Horrified and/or don’t believe what I’ve said? The story is actually much much worse than I have time here to express. Fortunately, if given proper attention, many of the problems listed could be solved with better software that interfaces multiple records and entitlements simultaneously and efficiently… IF someone would just focus the proper attention to the front-end service delivery issues I mentioned. SSA should also empower its front-end employees to be more than just powerless agents there mostly to take clientele heat but empowered to do little else.

    • Tom

      Voting has consequences. SSA like many agencies has been losing percentages of their budgets since the 1980s. Since the 1980s that has added up substantially. No one in any agency has asked for these cuts. Budget cuts cause service cuts, plain and simple. If you get angry because of this and vote for an anti-government candidate you will wind making the problem worse. You may wind up going from a severely understaffed office to a closed one as happened to the IRS which closed many local offices. Less government applies for you as well as the people you may think don’t deserve your tax dollars. It is an equal opportunity destroyer of the safety net we all rely on. And we do all rely on it even if you find that uncomfortable to admit.

    • DrGonzo888

      So they shouldn’t verify people ? I would rather be over verified and know that they know it is me and not someone that stole some of my information.

      Do you understand that these stringent rules are in place more than ever because of ID theft ? I bet you would be carrying on to no end if someone called them and changed where your check went, would you not ?

      And where did this 15% stat come from ? Source ? So if they get 50K calls a night, 7500 are turned away for not knowing their information ?

  10. Dana H.

    A lot of us are out here cheering for this!!
    Thank you.

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