Dec 3, 2015

Proving Homelessness

     Given the ridiculous hearing backlog at Social Security now -- approaching two years in much of the country -- it's crucial that homeless claimants receive the expediting that Social Security allows them. But how are we supposed to prove homelessness? You might say, "That's easy. Just get the homeless shelter to write a letter on their behalf." That's easier said than done even when we're talking about homeless shelters and most homeless people don't stay in homeless shelters. There are few homeless shelters in rural areas. Homeless shelters can be dangerous places. Most homeless people avoid them when they can. They move around between relatives and friends, never staying anywhere long. Some live in tents or shacks in the woods. How are these claimants supposed to prove their homelessness?
     At the moment, I’m asking homeless clients either to write a letter that I can send to Social Security or get someone at a homeless shelter or a relative or friend to write a letter but this doesn’t work so well. Homeless people often lack the ability to write a letter and lack people in their lives who can or will write a letter on their behalf. 
     I keep thinking there’s got to be a better way. What are other people doing? Would a form that a claimant or someone in their life could complete work?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many homeless people do stay in shelters at least some of the time. Others receive services from organizations dedicated to serving the homeless. Others receive "home" visits from case managers or other social workers. Medical sources routinely comment on the living arrangements of their patients. I don't agree that it is burdensome to provide some corroboration of alleged homelessness. What strikes me is that a high proportion of representatives fail to request critical case status on behalf of clearly homeless claimants.

Johnny Cash said...

I have resorted to sending in pictures at times when a client is living in a tent or an abandoned trailer. Anything that can add some credence to the assertion of homelessness can't hurt.
If they are "couch surfing," our ODAR at times won't see that as an inability to obtain shelter and won't expedite it.

Anonymous said...

a simple statement that the claimant "lacks shelter" and "has no means to remedy the situation" should be sufficient (per HALLEX). SSA isn't in the business of scrutinizing these allegations. As an employee who reviews request for expedited processing, I take what is claimed at face value.

Anonymous said...

This all presumes someone at ODAR will read it. Just think...how may obvious Listing-level OTR requests have you sent in the last 2 years without a response. Or worse, when the ALJ says "I wish I had seen this earlier."
(You would have if you spent half as much time reviewing cases as you do reading your Union newsletter)

Anonymous said...

Listing level OTR's? I rarely see a listing level case. There is a preamble to each and every listing we have. A rep needs to read and understand that part of the listing first. A positive SLR is not a listing unless it is performed properly (2 positions) and other criteria are met. I have a lot of Rep's that come in claiming such and such meets a listing. I ask them to show me that in the Reg's. Surprise, surprise, seldom can they. Further, the rep's that say, well he equals such and such listing, just don't have a clue..

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Anonymous said...

How did I know this would turn into a complaint about reps? We have the claimant or someone they know write a letter describing their situation. We then submit it with a dire need request. Sometimes it works, other times it does not or is ignored. It's entirely up to the particular ALJ assigned to the case. I had one ALJ tell me that everyone who comes in front of has "dire need" and he never grants them. Other ALJs regularly grant them when the situation is presented to them.

By the way, this time of the year is the worst for worse-off claimants. With the weather getting colder and the holidays approaching, the heart breaking phone calls and tears increase dramatically. It's so sad.

Anonymous said...

"Rarely do I see a Listing case". If you are an ALJ (and your post is written as if you are), this is frightening. Not surprising...but frightening.

My experience is that many ALJs have no idea how the Listing criteria is to be applied. I can count on one hand the ones who understand 12.05 A-C. The next two most misconstrued are 3 & 4 et seq. Rather than learn what a "Dvd" and "EF" actually mean, too many take the position of "well, if it was a Listing DDS would have awarded."

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't even get to this point. DDS needs to be investigated NOW. Read the news letter below, and see if your mind is changed...

http://www.aalj.org/system/files/documents/aalj_newsletter___february_2_2015.pdf

Anonymous said...

"Rarely do I see a Listing case". If you are an ALJ (and your post is written as if you are), this is frightening. Not surprising...but frightening."

DDS missing the listing is incredibly COMMON in my state. We used to be able to get these taken care of by OTR, or an attorney screening as soon as they hit ODAR pretty easily. Now it is harder to get anything OTR, so seeing lots more listings proven at hearing right back to onset date with medical experts. There are certainly, involved, THOROUGH, caring and ETHICAL ALJs (those who have actually taken the time to LEARN what really goes on at DDS) who know that there are many categories where the DDS staffers are poorly trained. Assuming that DDS will catch listings is ridiculous, lacks common sense, indicates indifference and agency bias. DDS staffers often can't/won't do MATH on respiratory listings, can't figure out lab results, can't figure out all that hard stuff...And it is also COMMON KNOWLEDGE that the "medical consultants" spend about a minute reviewing the proposed findings of the examiner and rubber stamp the proposed denials. Examiners get bonuses to move the cases along....denials are faster. They have extra levels to go to actually approve. When a claimant has already been approved for seeing eye dog for blindness, you would think that someone at DDS could have actually read the record! Happens all the time. Listings are missed commonly. The medical consultants need to be investigated.

Anonymous said...

Strange, missing listings is a very seldom, if even calculable, remand reason.

Anonymous said...

I use a dire need letter in my own words and then attach a handwritten letter from the client if available.

Have been pretty successful with dire need letters out here in California. There are many homeless people here and the SSA usually does not question this. The dire need law does not seemingly impose strict requirements to actually PROVE homelessness but maybe it does.

Basically you have 3 ways to get a quick hearing.

1. Death is imminent.
2. Severe suicidal thoughts.
3. Homelessness.

The law seems pretty simple. SSA just messes it up.

Anonymous said...

"Just think...how may obvious Listing-level OTR requests have you sent in the last 2 years..."
As a practitioner, you would probably say 90% of everything you send in with an OTR request is listing level. As an ALJ, I would say none. Most of the "briefs" or "memoranda" I see arguing OTRS are junk. All assertion and no bases. It's almost like the Reps who submit them are all paralegals without legal training. What ever happened to the A in IRAC?

Anonymous said...

Obtaining critical status for the homeless is pretty straightforward. Under HALLEX, simply allege "any of the following circumstances:

The claimant is without food and is unable to obtain it.

The claimant lacks medicine or medical care and is unable to obtain it, or the claimant indicates that access to necessary medical care is restricted because of a lack of resources.

The claimant lacks shelter (e.g., without utilities such that his or her home is uninhabitable, homelessness, expiration of a shelter stay, or imminent eviction or foreclosure with no means to remedy the situation or obtain shelter).

Absent evidence to the contrary, [we will] accept a person's allegation that he or she does not have enough income or resources to meet an immediate threat to his or her health or safety. ODAR employees will err on the side of designating the case critical."

As an ALJ, the prong I see missing most often is the "unable to obtain it" test. Tell me the claimant has no family to help, cannot find a bed in a shelter, or needs critical meds and has no resources to obtain them, and you're in like Flynn.

Anonymous said...

@9:11

why are you waiting until only after a case is assigned to an ALJ (many, many months after ODAR got the claim) to make a critical or dire need request? You know that a group supervisor makes that determination when the claim is not assigned to an ALJ, right?

Anonymous said...

Wrong, only an ALJ may make that call. If unassigned, a group supervisor will take it to the Judge to determine.

Anonymous said...

to 11:08 PM:

In Norfolk, the ODAR says that being in a homeless shelter means you have shelter, which therefore means you are not in dire need and your hearing will not be expedited, even though you are homeless.

I'm not kidding.

Anonymous said...

Also in Norfolk, if you have cancer your hearing will not be expedited. This is because Norfolk ODAR's position is that cancer must meet a Listing to be disabling, and if so they will grant OTR for it, but they will not expedite the hearing.

Of course there is a catch 22 if duration hasn't been met yet, so if you have Stage III cancer of any kind you will not have an expedited hearing in Norfolk.

Anonymous said...

@12:27

might wanna check HALLEX I-2-1-40B.1., second paragraph ;)

Anonymous said...

We don't need no stinkin' Hallex....

Anonymous said...

@1:03

Sounds like you should contact the RCALJ or regional office since they are technically in charge of all those designations and monitoring the same. The criteria for critical/dire need, TERI, compassionate allowance, etc. are set out in detail and it seems Stage III cancer would satisfy one if not multiple of those designations.

You may get tired of running into a brick wall with complaints, but I promise you if you went to the RCALJ with something like that, it would be addressed.

Anonymous said...

"why are you waiting until only after a case is assigned to an ALJ (many, many months after ODAR got the claim) to make a critical or dire need request? You know that a group supervisor makes that determination when the claim is not assigned to an ALJ, right?"

Wrong, wrong. I'm glad a previous poster called this out. You are right it is probably better to ask for dire need prior to the hearing level. However each ODAR with its scheduling can expedite a hearing. They do it all the time. E.g. an ME was not called at a hearing so the ALJ will schedule a hearing quicker than usual because ODAR messed up.

Sad a previous poster stated living in a shelter is not considered homeless. How? This is the definition of homelessness. I have had clients who were so-called "couch surfing" so there may be an argument there. But what is a claimant to do, live on the payment just to get an expedited hearing?