Best Practices for Increasing Access to SSI/SSDI upon Exiting Criminal Justice Settings
Date:  09-03-2013

Helping reentering individuals reinstate their benefits quickly reduces homelessness and recidivism
SAMHSA’ s SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery Technical Assistance (SOAR TA) Center offers information for professionals working with formerly incarcerated individuals who are attempting to reinstate their SSI or SSDI benefits quickly and efficiently.

The SOAR report, “Exiting Criminal Justice Settings,” written by Dazara Ware, M.P.C. and Deborah Dennis, M.A. begins by revealing:

“Seventeen percent of people currently incarcerated in local jails and in state and federal prisons are estimated to have a serious mental illness. The twin stigmas of justice involvement and mental illness present significant challenges for social service staff charged with helping people who are incarcerated plan for reentry to community life. Upon release, the lack of treatment and resources, inability to work, and few options for housing mean that many quickly become homeless and recidivism is likely.

The Social Security Administration (SSA), through its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs, can provide income and other benefits to persons with mental illness who are reentering the community from jails and prisons. The SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery program (SOAR), a project funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a national technical assistance program that helps people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness to access SSA disability benefits.

SOAR training can help local corrections and community transition staff negotiate and integrate benefit options with community reentry strategies for people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders to assure successful outcomes. This best practices summary describes:

  • The connections between mental illness, homelessness, and incarceration

  • The ramifications of incarceration on receipt of SSI and SSDI benefits

  • The role of SOAR in transition planning

  • Examples of jail or prison SOAR initiatives to increase access to SSI/SSDI

  • Best practices for increasing access to SSI/SSDI benefits for people with mental illness who are reentering the community from jails and prisons.
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