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July 30, 2016

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR)

The Issue
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are disability income benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that also provide Medicaid and/or Medicare health insurance to individuals who are eligible. The application process for SSI/SSDI is complicated and difficult to navigate. Nationally, about 29 percent of individuals who apply for these benefits are approved on initial application and appeals take an average of one year to complete.

 For people who are homeless or who are returning to the community from institutions (jails, prisons or hospitals), access to these programs can be extremely challenging. Approval on initial application for people who are homeless and who have no one to assist them is about 10-15 percent. For those who have a mental illness, substance use issues, or co-occurring disorders that impair cognition, the application process is even more difficult – yet accessing these benefits is often a critical first step in recovery.

A Solution
SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) is an approach that helps states increase access to mainstream benefits for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through:
  • Training of case managers using the SOAR Online CourseThe course uses a fictional applicant to teach techniques that will improve the quality and completeness of any application for SSI/SSDI. 
  • Strategic Planning Meeting(s) bring key state/local stakeholders together to collaborate, agree upon a SOAR Process for the submission and processing of SSI/SSDI applications, and develop an action plan for the implementation of their SOAR Program (e.g. Social Security Administration (SSA) and Disability Determination Services (DDS); State Mental Health Agency and Department of Corrections leadership; and community homeless, health and behavioral health providers).
  • Technical Assistance to states and communities including support for action plan implementation, training observations with feedback, and assistance with tracking outcomes in order to document success and help access additional resources.

  • Nationally, about 28% of individuals who apply for these benefits are approved on initial application and appeals take an average of 1 year to complete without using the SOAR process.
  • During 2015, 71% of initial Idaho SOAR applications were approved within an average of 59 days.  On appeal, 30% were approved with an average of 84 days to decision. 
  • Nationally, SOAR applications provided more than $3.6 million in retroactive benefits in 2015.

Idaho SOAR Hub Leads

North Hub Lead

Katherine Rossi Harris

Contact Katherine:, 208-660-0907

About Katherine

I was born and raised in Southern Idaho. I graduated from Snake River High School, Riverside, Idaho.  
I attended Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, where I earned a BA in Social Work.  I then attended Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Washington where I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 2004, and then a Master’s in Public Administration in 2005.
Although I’ve lived in Spokane, Washington, since 2003, my heart belongs to Idaho.  For the past 10 years I’ve been driving across the Washington/Idaho state line to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where I work as the hospital’s Emergency Room Social Worker.
I am currently working on getting my Clinical Licensure in Social Work. My goal is to finish up my hours and take the exam this year.
I have two children that I am very proud of: Daughter Kelsie who is applying to Law School for the fall of this year. She and her husband have blessed me with twin grandsons: Elliott and Desmond who will celebrate their 2nd birthday in March.  My son Jordan is finishing up his 2nd year of Medical School at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

About SOAR Hub Leads

SOAR Hub Leads are the experts in their hub.  They are familiar with the local process as well as the SOAR Case Managers available in their area.  Contact the Hub Lead in your area if you would like a referral to a SOAR Case Manager. 

If you would like to know if you are on the Idaho SOAR Case Manager list or to update your information, please email

Southwest Hub Lead
Jenifer Grout

Contact Jenifer:, 208-433-4430

About Jenifer

I am Jenifer Grout, Project Coordinator for The Salvation Army Finally Home Transition in Place housing program.  I have been with The Salvation Army for 6 years. I am a licensed Social Worker. I also do the Project Share Utility Assistance for Ada County.  I have been doing SOAR applications for the last two years.  My experience with SOAR has been good and I really believe in the SOAR process for helping those experiencing homelessness and in need of their social security benefits and health care.

About SOAR Hub Leads

SOAR Hub Leads are the experts in their hub.  They are familiar with the local process as well as the SOAR Case Managers available in their area.  Contact the Hub Lead in your area if you would like a referral to a SOAR Case Manager. 

If you would like to know if you are on the Idaho SOAR Case Manager list or to update your information, please email

Southeast Hub Lead
Tracy Atwell

Contact Tracy:, 208-785-1200

About Tracy
I am Tracy Atwell, Resources and Services Navigator at State Hospital South. I began my career at SHS in August 2000. I have worked in several different capacities here at the hospital including direct care to Idaho's most severe and persistent mentally ill. I have worked with clients to complete Benefit applications since 2006. I began using the SOAR model in September 2011 after I completed the 3 day Stepping Stones to Recovery case manager training in Twin Falls, Idaho. Since that time I have actively implemented the SOAR process at State Hospital South and have completed numerous applications. In March 2014 I attended the SOAR Leadership Academy in Phoenix AZ and have been a trainer across Idaho including here at State Hospital South for the last 21 months. In August 2014 I completed 16 hours of SOAR online training. In June 2015 I became a Hub Lead in my area and look forward to building a network of case managers and Community partners.

About SOAR Hub Leads

SOAR Hub Leads are the experts in their hub.  They are familiar with the local process as well as the SOAR Case Managers available in their area.  Contact the Hub Lead in your area if you would like a referral to a SOAR Case Manager. 

If you would like to know if you are on the Idaho SOAR Case Manager list or to update your information, please email

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Idaho State SOAR Leads

Michael Armand


Crystal Campbell


SOAR Training

SOAR training will be conducted via an online course.  There will be an opportunity to complete the online course with a cohort that will break the course out over several weeks and provide regular calls to discuss the materials. You can also complete the training on your own.  In addition, to become an Idaho SOAR Case Manager, you will need to attend an Idaho-specific Fundamental training.  For more information on SOAR trainings, please email  

If an agency or organization wants to request SOAR training they need to contact Michael Armand, the SOAR State Lead at or by phone at (208) 332-7238. 

Upcoming Trainings

Online Training


Cohort Training
Begins the week of September 26, 2016
Application due by September 19, 2016
Limited space available.

Idaho Specific Fundamentals Training
November 14, 2016
To register, email by November 7, 2016.

SOAR Data Tracking

SOAR Online Data Tracking Application (OAT)

The SOAR designated Online Tracking System (OAT) is available to anyone who has been SOAR trained.  OAT is a simple to use data system that allows Idaho to gather information on the effectiveness of OAT.  This data helps to assess the need in Idaho for many assistance programs and may help to find funding to be used for SOAR activities.

Please email or view the OAT website here if you have any questions.


SOAR Data Tracking Form

Idaho SOAR Success Stories

I want to share some thoughts about the first SOAR application that I processed. That was the one that was approved. I want to share in this short paragraph, that what I did was my job. I got to know my peer. What was different about it was just that simple. I sat with my peer and talked. I gathered quotes from him about what he wanted to do with his life. I asked him questions that were possibly unique, since they were coming from someone who has been there. It all comes down to getting to know the peer that you are working a SOAR case with. What you do then is attempt, the best you can, to let SSA and DDS also come into the peer's life. That is how I did it. I think it took a total of two months from start to finish. It took almost 8 hours of filing and data entry. He is happy and loves to play with his dogs. He is being treated with therapy on his Medicaid.
Story #1
I began working with a mentally ill client that just came to Boise from Alabama and she was living with her son. She was in denial about her illness, so believed she could still work and do everything else anyone can do. She was encouraged by her doctor to apply for SSI with our help and she agreed. Because she was in denial about her illness, she was very difficult to get information from and thus it was very difficult to write a medical summary report about her. We got through it the best we could and submitted the information on May 27, 2011. The client was later approved for her SSI by the initial application on July 7, 2011. The client was very happy about her approval and said to me, "God bless you for helping me get my social security!"

Story #2
I began working with a very depressed and suicidal client. She just came to Boise from Michigan and was living with her brother-in-law. She struggled to talk about herself and was irritated about having to give so much information for the medical summary report. She's a very pessimistic person and told me all the time that everyone's always denied with SSI the first time they apply. We submitted the application on June 15, 2011 and the client just received confirmation that she was approved for SSI from the initial application on September 13, 2011. She said to me, "Thank-you very much. I just can't thank you enough for everything that you did for me."

The client did a reconsideration which began on May 28. The client was living in a boarding home place with no income and about to be on the streets if rent not paid. She got some assistance for rent. She was sure she would not be approved and was preparing to move into her car. She spent a lot of time at Terry Reilly’s clinic as she has diabetes and has had severe trauma and abuse in her life. I can now hook her up with resources to further assist her and she will not be homeless.
Story #1
I met with Jane Doe during a psychiatric hospitalization. Jane had many physical and mental health complications and could barely ambulate.  She was close to losing her apartment and was very depressed because no matter how hard she tried to go back to work she just couldn’t do it physically or mentally. Jane had previously filed an initial disability claim with assistance and was just recently denied. After reading her denial letter and interviewing her, it was clear that her initial case did not include all of her diagnoses, nor all of her potential medical evidence. After assisting her with gathering the missing and current medical evidence I filed an appeal with SSA office. They allowed me to mark this claim as a SOAR claim so it would be handled through the SOAR channels.
When DDS received the new claim I contacted them and let them know that her previous claim was missing diagnoses and medical evidence. Patti at DDS allowed me to fax in over a 100 more pages of evidence. Her new claim moved very quickly through the system and she was approved within a few weeks. Jane Doe was granted SSI and Medicaid which allowed her get treated by specialists. Although her illnesses are chronic, he has remained steadily housed and is now ambulating on her own. Jane has returned to work part-time and is feeling like her quality of life is better than it has been in a long time.

Story #2
I met with John Doe while he was staying at the River of Life Mission.  John was in his 40's and was just released from prison and lacked resources to navigate the community. It was discovered that John had suffered from schizophrenia and severe social phobia for most of his life and had never had stable housing nor a job. He had moved around his whole life doing odd jobs and living in cars, shelters, or camp sites. John had received off and on treatment for his mental health.
John was very nervous around doctors and avoided them or clammed up around them. John was connected with Terry Reilly Services and was referred to a psychiatrist within their facility. I was able to work with John on writing down his symptoms before he went to the provider and with the provider on documenting John's functional limitations in his medical records. John was approved for disability in 4 weeks and received his first steady income and medical treatment ever. In just two months John had saved enough money to move near his family in Montana and with his income was able to have stable housing on his own for the first time in his life.