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Texas SOAR Program is Taking Off

SOAR, for the unfamiliar, is a disability application fast track process for people close to or currently experiencing homelessness. This process adds a few more forms, medical records compiled by the caseworker, and a written narrative called the Medical Summary Report that can when signed by a qualified medical professional, become medical evidence added to the applicant’s file. 

The Texas SOAR Program is gaining momentum. To see just how much the SOAR program has grown and improved, let’s look at the data for the last four years. From 7/19/2013 to 7/19/2015, a total of 73 decisions were made, 40 applications were approved, 33 were denied, making it a 55% approval rate. The average number of days until a decision was made on a claim was 122.  For the next two-year span, 7/19/2015 – 7/19/2017, there were 195 decisions made, 114 approvals, 81 denials, making it a 58% approval rate. The average number of days until a decision was made on a claim was 108. The number of SOAR claims that were filed more than doubled! 

The majority of the approved applications in Texas have been submitted by Travis County’s Integral Care. From 5/1/2016 to 7/18/2017, they have submitted 54 applications with 42 approvals, or 78%, and an average of 90 days on decisions. The national average for approvals is 65% in an average of 90 days. 

One of the reasons Integral Care is successful is because as part of their team of social workers and case managers, they have a dedicated SOAR specialist, Suzie Brady, who is also the Travis County local lead. Suzie holds a monthly SOAR Support Meeting, where caseworkers doing SOAR applications can meet, discuss challenges and successes, and find guidance from one another as they go through the process of completing applications. These monthly meetings are designed to be casual, open, constructive, and, as always, client confidentiality is held to an utmost importance.

Along with more case managers at Integral Care becoming SOAR certified, this past semester they were able to get two interns through the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work. The team gives huge congratulations to Josh Kivlovitz and Brelynn Thomas. “They each completed their internships and each had two SOAR approvals!” The team would also like to thank Tess Bernhard, an Americorps member working for Trinity Center in Austin – she also just got word of her first SOAR approval. “She has done some amazing work with individuals experiencing homelessness in Austin, and we will miss her (this is her last week)!”

Congratulations to Integral Care, Suzie, and the SOAR team for doing an amazing job!

As the SOAR State Lead, THN is working on ways to improve SOAR in Texas. If you have any questions on starting your own SOAR Support Meeting, or if you would like guidance on how to implement a dedicated SOAR specialist into your team, feel free to contact Jen Hellow, VISTA SOAR State Coordinator at vista_jen@thn.org, or the state SOAR lead, Jennifer Paulsen at jennifer@thn.org.

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