Three organizations have come together to provide a toolkit, SSI for Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care, that could help test out a new Social Security Administration pilot that seeks to extend SSI benefits to youth exiting foster care. The three groups authoring the report, the Juvenile Law Center, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and the Homeless Advocacy Project have developed the document geared toward advocates that work with youth in foster care.
SSI or the Supplemental Security Income program provides assistance to low income individuals who have disabilities, are blind or over age 65. Some youth in care may have disabilities that would qualify for SSI but foster care may count as income until they exit. The new pilot would allow for early application up to six months before a young person transitions out of foster care. That is important because eligibility determination can take a long time.
The new pilot by the SSA started on August 1, 2016 and the three groups say that there are three actions advocates can take:
- Use the new policy! Help foster youth apply for SSI 6 months before their expected discharge date
- Share this toolkit! This toolkit includes several resources intended to spread the news about SSA’s policy and to assist in the application process – share it with your colleagues. The toolkit is also available online at www.jlc.org/SSI or www.clsphila.org/FosterCareSSI
- Give them feedback! Tell them about any issues you encounter with the policy, as well as any success stories. We want SSA to see the benefit of the new policy, and so it’s important to be able to demonstrate the positive impact it has.
The document provides basic information on how to apply for SSI, a sample letter for appeal and instructions on necessary documentation. For foster youth exiting care and meeting the disability standards, SSI benefits can be vital to a person with no other source of income or support.