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


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  4. Retiree

    Social Security isn’t a welfare program, so they can’t help the poor or homeless unless they qualify for benefits and they had to put in some years of actual work.

  5. JLG

    I agree with many of the personal comments voiced on this blog. I don’t think the SSA is very transparent about it’s rules and protocols for the public when it comes to SS or SSI or else the local field offices “make up” rules along the way and this behavior is either secretly sanctioned or isn’t known by those who can do something about it. They also need to “step up” when it comes to returning phone calls and maintaining consistently polite representative – client interactions. There are training customer service videos that can be viewed as continuing education and I was introduced to these on a job once. These should be used on a regular basis because GOOD customer service does not come naturally to everyone. It’s something that we all have to work on when one works with the public! The SS office should give the public an opportunity to give feedback on their telephone or in-person interactions with representatives so those in HR or Customer Service can really see, from a customer perspective, how a customer feels he is being treated during a session. Then you will know which reps need remedial training, which reps can be mentors and which ones should be let go or sent to a dept with minimal customer interaction!
    I was POA and eventually Rep Payee for my mother who started becoming ill with Dementia. Soon after that started, I discovered she had breast cancer that she had been hiding for a while – don’t know for how long or even if she knew what it was – but when I took her to a physician for unusual symptoms, the advanced tumor was discovered and it was too large and had spread too far for an attempt any life-saving methods like chemo, surgery and/or radiation therapy. I loved my mom very much and she had been through so much heart ache from early childhood and now this! I started taking her to a cancer specialist in York, PA and he started her on a hormone-based medication that did shrink her tumor, providing some measure of comfort, but didn’t necessarily buy her more time.
    Mom was eligible and received SSI and a small amount of SS when she lived in NY and did so when I moved her to PA. She also maintained a burial account, since it was “allowed” under SSI, however I could not find the the details about the type of account under which a burial account should be opened. Were there particular accounts? Was it restricted to statement accounts? What about CDs? Apparently, local banks are not well-informed either. One would think that at least the banks would know since they are practically run by the Federal govt! (rules and regs) When she approached a new bank in PA (Fulton) and explained that she wanted to set aside $1500 into a burial account – monies she could not touch during her lifetime – they advised her to open a Passbook saving account! She trusted the bank to know more about this than she did and followed their advice. They knew she was retired, receiving SS because she had to set up a direct deposit into her savings or checking account. SSA should share such vitally important financial information (and updates) with local area banks so the banks can, indeed, be knowledgeable about how to set up the right accounts so SSI recipients are not penalized down the road. Before my mom got ill with dementia, this worked out OK, but when balancing her checkbook and withdrawing $$ for expenses, etc became confusing for her & I realized she stopped balancing her checkbook for months and started withdrawing money from the Burial Fund, something she was told would NOT be possible, I knew there was a problem! Apparently, the bank’s “stop gap” measure to prevent her from withdrawing $$ from her burial fund did not work out as they had planned! No one stopped her or even reminded her about what she was doing to dissuade her from continuing and using her checking account instead. The only person who found out what was going on was ME when the bank manager called me after a few withdrawals occurred to inform me what had happened. Needless to say, I was angry at their irresponsibility and made sure he knew that. He made a suggestion that the balance be transferred to a Certificate of Deposit since the balance in a CD cannot be withdrawn (easily) without penalty and before the maturity date unless the owner of the account has expired. I wondered why they hadn’t used this financial vehicle in the first place when she set up the account!
    I had already been made POA for financial and medical purposes and transferred funds from her checking acct to build up the burial account again to it’s original level before opening the CD. So far I was still following Fulton bank’s advice as I could find no worthwhile or helpful information for recipients on this matter from SSA to follow. And, to make the situation even worse for my mother, when they would “re-certify” her for SSI, the SS office would send a large computer generated, basically unintelligible packet of monthly calculations (one mailing was 25 pages long!) which went through a client’s monthly income to arrive at the conclusion whether or not they exceeded the maximum monthly SSI eligibility cut-off. Correspondence read like form letters not personal letters and there was either no call back number or no representative name with a call back number so you never knew who to ask for as was told anyone could help you. In the latter situation, there was no continuity to your case and you felt as if you had to start you story from scratch for each new rep – very frustrating for a customer to have to do! I also never received a call-back when I did leave a message. I think this is very rude.
    There’s was no way Mom could understand what any of this communication meant to her in her declining mental state and, of course, there were no professionals at the local office – not even a clinical social worker – to assess whether or not the elderly clients being seen could even understand a modicum of the questions they were being asked or the information they were told or why. For example, a medical SW could perform a mini mental exam to determine if a client is deemed capable of comprehending and remembering what he is told or if he/she has the capacity to understand the information and to follow directions as given by the Rep at the SS office. I would guess there are more than a few of the elderly who are forced to visit the local offices who would benefit by this “test” but do not receive the modicum of respect it offers and are being taken advantage of through no fault of their own. Whether or not the SS office wants to or desires to acknowledge the existence of a POA, if one exists, that person is usually close to the client in many ways and would be very helpful in providing the necessary medical background in an expedient manner for the SS office during these times. By ignoring the POA or denying the existence of one, the SS office is doing a disservice to the client as the POA is a legal contract between the client and the POA and is sanctioned when the client is “of sound mind and body”, not after as is the RP. I believe the SS office has a duty to ask if a POA exists and for the contact information & to make that person RP as this would be the most useful way to expedite the exchange of useful information back and forth as well as protecting the client’s interests.
    My mom was done a terrible disservice, as I later learned because for many months, her Burial Fund, which should not have been counted as “income” was added in as monthly income, making her ineligible for SSI (or “overpaid” in their parlance) incorrectly. This eventually added up to ~ $7000 and they started demanding payments. One time she was in the office, one of the reps asked her to pay $500 to them and mom felt forced to pay them this amount in a check right then. She was alone and felt intimidated. No one bothered to explain the reasoning and mom didn’t understand why she had to pay anything back. This never happened to her while she received SSI in NY so why was it happening now? Is it something they do to take advantage of the elderly who have cognitive deficiencies and don’t know better? I certainly hope not! Since I was RP, I was also receiving these letters about payback and realized what happened with the bad “accounting” on SS part when I took the time to really look into the letters SSI sent her. Our government is supposed to be a system of “checks and balances”. Doesn’t anyone check alleged “overpayment” correspondence that leaves offices to make sure they are correct and review the numbers and which data are being counted? If not, this should be done. If so, someone would have seen, as I did, that her burial fund account was added into the calculation and had the calculations repeated. They might have also taken the initiative to speak with someone in the dept about the various banking (saving) vehicles used for Burial Funds – what is allowed, what can be used, etc. as a way to not only update the banks, but a customer service initiative. Or do people who work in public service not go above and beyond the call of duty?
    Well…mom passed away last year and I started receiving letters from SSI demanding payment for her alleged “overpayments”. First, I was under the impression that RPs are not held financially responsible for their clients, regardless of the relationship between the RP and the client, so why was I receiving these requests. Other vendors/merchants cannot request payments from me that were owed by my mother (she didn’t have any), however she was in a nursing home at the end and they are claiming a Past Due amount which I am not required to pay and I don’t believe she ever owed it anyway. I sent the local SS dept a long explanation and proof why I felt she did not earn this $7000 overpayment by something she did, but by mis-calculations and assumptions done on their part when she moved to PA (between Lancaster and York), showing them on their own correspondence where they added in her Burial fund on a monthly basis and how that made her monthly “income” rise above the expected maximum for SSI recipients. After that, I received a letter indicating that I now owed an adjusted amount of ~ $600 claiming that I was appointed RP after all this calculation problem occurred. However, what does RP assignment (timing) have to do with whether or not there is an alleged overpayment and an RP’s responsibility to pay it when RPs are not to be held responsible to pay for whatever the client “allegedly” does. I would assume an attempt to collect is made from the client’s estate if there is one. If nothing is left in the estate, then no one gets anything and I barely had enough to cremate mom at the end, with what she had left in her checking account.

  6. Donna J.

    The social security administration needs to do more to help homeless disabled persons and victims of domestic violence. Donna Johnson

  7. tammy

    SOCIALIST SECURITY has NEVER offered me a helping hand, EVER!!!!!! The issue is a special “Rule” that the Socialist Security System uses to discriminate against “certain” people. If you are a “physically disabled person” (AKA-certain people) and happen to marry an able bodied person, then the SOCIALIST SECURITY system will use special “Rules” to legally discriminate against you and deny you benefits, even if you appeal online.

    The SOCIALIST SECURITY system has caused me a lot of economic hardship all because I married an able bodied person. The SOCIALIST SECURITY system thinks someone who is physically disabled (permanently and totally disabled) marries an “able bodied person”, that somehow magically they are cured of their physical disability and two people can survive off the able bodied persons income. WOW, talk about a bunch of bureaucratic idiotic thinking, that somehow this would not cause a financial hardship….. amazing.

    The rules that the Social Security Administration uses to legally discriminate against persons who are “Adult Disabled Children” who happen to marry an able bodied person, are discriminatory. This is loosely referred to as the “marriage penalty” but I call it exactly what it is, a legal form of discrimination.
    I firmly believe this rule, is an act of bias, prejudice and discrimination against people who (by no fault of their own) are born disabled and happen to marry an able bodied person

    Please write your Congressional Representative and tell them to end this modern day form of Legal Discrimination. In this day of fairness and equality, there are still some people suffering from an outdated and oppressive bureaucratic rule.

    (PS. notice how the only thing any of these SOCIALIST SECURITY workers ever say are quotes of the rules or processes, like a worker drone. They are unable to address any topics that fall outside of their rule books). Typical bureaucracy and bureaucratic responses, like trying to argue over lost change with a vending machine!

    • DrGonzo888

      Those rules and processe4s they quote are the LAWS. So when you ask assigning questions over and over, such as why you were “punished” for marrying an able bodied man, THAT IS THE KIND OF ANSWER YOU WILL GET! it is not some hidden law, has nothing to do with this topic, and a quick keyword search on ssa.gov gave me the answer. So don’t act like a conspiracy theorist nutjob, the rules are clears and there for all, you broke them, you lost your check.

  8. tony

    Medicare is giving so much free money to the Medicare Advantage Plans that they are offering rewards like gas cards, shopping certificate, and movie ticket to the people who signed up with them. Everybody is ripping off the Federal government. You are just giving away free money left and right. Medicare is going to go broke along with Social Security.

  9. tony

    There is so many people receiving that free disability money that the SSA has a backlog of full medical CDRs. People are getting the short form and deferring their CDRs up to 7 years.

    Normally if they miss more than a year of treatment, they would be denied on their application for failure to follow prescribed treatment.

    That doesn’t happen during the CDR process. They could go without seeing a doctor for years and see they when their CDR is coming up. The short form CDR only ask for three recent doctor visits.

    Even if they start to see a doctor and they got the full medical CDR, the SSA would continue their benefits anyways. The SSA likes giving away free disability money.

  10. tony

    New York has a high approval rating at the ALJ level also. The State of New York use to have a free Disability Advocate Service aimed at getting poor and homeless people Social Security disability. There is also the SOAR program helping homeless people get that free disability money.

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