Any person that meets the medical and technical eligibility rules for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability programs can receive benefits. As a homeless person, you’re entitled to the same application processes as anyone else, but there are definitely some challenges you’ll need to overcome in getting your application filed.
Applying for Social Security Benefits when Homeless
An online application can be filed from any internet-connected computer, and you don’t even have to complete the application yourself. Someone else can file on your behalf.
Libraries, churches, shelters, and advocacy groups are just a few potential sources for filing an online application. A disability attorney is another option to consider, and you can also stop by any Social Security office to schedule an appointment or complete a disability application.
Overcoming Communication Hurdles
When you don’t have a permanent address and may not even have access to a phone regularly, it can be hard to give the SSA any contact information. Keep in mind though that after you apply for benefits, the SSA may need to reach you and you’ll need to get messages quickly so you can respond by what are typically some pretty short deadlines. The SSA usually only gives people about 10 days to reply to inquires or requests, which means it’s crucial you have a communication method lined up.
You’ll need a friend, family member, or someone else that always knows where you are and how to contact you.
Consider securing agreement from a church, shelter, or an advocacy group to serve as your contact, if necessary. You can also hire a Social Security disability lawyer to handle your disability claim and he or she can be your primary contact for inquiries and other communications.
Getting Your Benefit Payments
If you’re approved for benefits, there are additional concerns you’ll have to address, including how you’ll get your payments. The SSA no long mails checks, and all payments are now issued electronically. This means you need a bank account or you’ll have to sign up for the Direct Express program instead.
If you have a bank account, you can enroll in direct deposit online, at the local SSA branch, or by calling 1-800-772-1213. If you need to use Direct Express instead, the local office can help with this too or you can call 1-877-212-9991. The downside of Direct Express is that you’ll still need a mailing address at which to initially receive your debit card. A shelter address or the address of a trusted friend, family member, or church organization may work. If you have a disability attorney, his or her office could receive the card on your behalf as well.
Getting Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim
The disability application, review, and approval processes are challenging even when you’re not facing the additional hurdles that come with homelessness. Getting the extra help you need may seem overwhelming, but a disability advocate or attorney may be the solution. Keep in mind too that disability attorneys work on contingency, which means they only get paid if their clients are approved for benefits. You can therefore secure the help you need with no money down upfront.