COVID-19, Disability, Supporting Our Most Vulnerable

Outreach to Vulnerable Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 2, 2021 • By

Last Updated: April 2, 2021

A photo headshot of SSA Commissioner Andrew SaulLast week, over 1,500 people joined me on a national conference call to learn how their organizations can help the Social Security Administration assist our most vulnerable populations during COVID-19. Participants included representatives of the non-profit community, health care organizations, private industry, Federal, State, and local government, and Congress. The response was nothing short of extraordinary and serves as an example of the public service spirit that unites us all.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that we join together to serve our most vulnerable populations. People who struggle with low-income, limited English proficiency, homelessness, or with mental illness, have historically relied on meeting with us in person at our local offices to get the help they need. With our offices currently unable to accept walk-in visitors to protect both our beneficiaries and our work force during the pandemic, it is essential that we continue to engage with the public online, on the telephone, and by appointment for limited, critical situations.

To address the challenge of continuing to serve those who need us most, we’ve joined with external partners to launch a new national outreach campaign. The goal of the campaign is to connect eligible individuals to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The SSI and SSDI programs provide critical financial assistance, including life-saving access to healthcare and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in many cases.

Key components of our outreach campaign include:

  • Working with community-based groups that can assist with taking applications for SSI and SSDI.
  • Launching a national advertising campaign on TV, radio, and social media, with emphasis on children with disabilities.
  • Adding a number of new online tools and informational pages, including:

I want to thank the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for working with us and sharing our website and products with their national network of faith and community leaders.

I also want to thank members of the claimant advocacy community for their collaboration on this campaign. We will feature their perspectives on serving vulnerable populations on this blog site over the coming weeks.

Please be sure to subscribe to this blog so that you receive alerts whenever we publish new articles from our partners. We will also share the latest information about our national outreach campaign here.

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About the Author

Commissioner of Social Security Administration (June 17, 2019 - July 9, 2021)


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  9. Jess G.

    I reside in Bangkok, Thailand. Last year I applied for Medicare based on my age. During the Medicare process I confirmed, with the social security representative in Manila (the office that serves Thailand) that my eligible start date for Social security was my sixty-six birthdate plus two months. I was advised that I could submit my application prior to the start date. I completed my application in February. I also registered on the My Social Security website. After not seeing any progress on the process steps displayed on the My Social Security website I followed up with a call to the Manila office on April 2, 2021. I was advised that the process was proceeding on plan. I checked again on April 16, 2021 with no change. I called Manila again on April 20, 2021 and was told that there were no problems with my application and it was transmitted to the U.S. office on April 7, 2021 for adjudication.

    On the social security website it is stated that processing time should be between 2-4 weeks with payment occurring on the second Wednesday of the month based on my birthdate. The representative said that processing for international may take somewhat longer. It is now 70 days or over 10 weeks since I applied. I have called the U.S. International Office of the Social Security Administration over 25 times with no one answering the phone number given on the SSA website. I sent 4 faxes to the fax number on the SSA website with no response. My letter indicates that I was in a difficult situation due to Covid-19 related matters. Still there was no response, not even an update. The SSA website states the process is still in Manila and Manila states that the U.S. has had the application since April 7, 2021. It is now the 13th of May with no change and no communication to the multiple channels of inquiry.

    My current situation is dire as I am restricted in a Covid-19 “red zone” lockdown with the number of infections and deaths increasing with no vaccination program being deployed at this time for foreigners. I am 66.5 years old with a history of heart disease and have suffered a coronary infarction. I am staying in a small hotel ($13 per night) and my funds run out May 17, 2021. I am not allowed to leave this area even if I had the funds to do so. I have no means of support from my family. On February 18, 2021 I will be homeless with no money for accommodation or food. It was reckless of me to depend on the schedule offered by the SSA and now my time is running out. I hope that this message is read and acted upon so at least I can get a response. Regardless, I will be on the street in a week or so in a Bangkok red zone (Khlong Toei). A response may enable me to gain a little compassion from the hotel depending on the response. The realization of payment, would be a dream at this point, given no response to any of my multiple attempts of communicating with the SSA supplied points of access.
    If anyone reads this comment please know that you cannot depend on the veracity of anything posted on the mysocialsecurity website. plan long in advance. I thought I planned with sufficient time yet I am about to enter my own private version of what is occuring in India. It is a sad time to be an American.

    • Vonda

      Hi Jess. We apologize for the difficult time you are experiencing working with Social Security. We have referred your complaint to our Office of Operations to follow up and to take corrective action as necessary.

  10. Virginia A.

    I was widowed on 3/21/20 & consequently saw my income slashed over half. Due to low income eligibility requirements for SSI, Disability, VA, etc. I was denied additional funds to help with my retirement funds. Consequently I got behind on my mortgage & have until 8/1/21 to come up with more income or lose my home. Rentals are higher than my mortgage, I would end up living in my car, am 67 with comorbidities that put me in the high risk group for contracting ^ dying from COVID-19 & was advised by my oncologist of these dangers if I sought work outside my home. I consequently email the WH, Fed Agency website, my state offices & no one has any answers. Something has to be done for those of us vulnerable as this virus like all viruses will never go completely away as newer strains will develop. We cannot collect unemployment & if we aren’t helped homelessness will spike among seniors & younger people with underlying health conditions. After fighting for help in the past year I have come to the conclusion one has to be homeless to qualify for these programs above but on the other hand I just lost my food stamps because my income just falls outside the income eligibility levels & I can’t even pay my mortgage & am on my way to becoming homeless! That occurs I will have no way to refrigerate my insulin & homelessness will kill me & many others in the same spot. Americans like us need to hound our elected officials & Washington. No vaccine is 100% effective &people with multiple underlying health conditions don’t always respond as healthier people do & sometimes it is deadly or permanent. We need action taken now on a permanent basis! Reps from my state’s Dept of Aging & Disability acknowledged I don’t have enough income a month to survive. I have 2 months at the most to come up with additional funds & like those who have posted here I need help now.

    • Vonda

      Hi Virginia, thank you for using our blog. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) gives cash assistance to people with limited income and resources who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled. In addition, you may want to apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $5,000 per year. To qualify for the Extra Help, a person must be receiving Medicare, have limited resources and income, and reside in one of the 50 States or the District of Columbia. In addition to the Extra Help, you may be able to get help from your State with other Medicare costs under the Medicare Savings Programs. By completing the Extra Help application, you will start your application process for a Medicare Savings Program. We will send information to your State who will contact you to help you apply for a Medicare Savings Program unless you tell us not to when you complete the application.

      To inquire about these and other potential benefits, you can call your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.


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