Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Federal Supplemental Security Income for Foster Youth

It is fair to say that the transition from adolescence to adulthood can be a tricky. Leaving home for the first time, for the typical young adult, to start your life in the world often involves one having to jump through a number of hoops. Now, in many cases those who are new to independence can still rely on financial support from their parents, giving them a cushion to help ease the transition. But for those who are in the foster care system who are about to “age out,” expecting that type of safety net is rare, which means that time is of the essence to find a stable job and place to reside. If that is not trying enough, people in foster care who have disabilities have a number of other factors with which to contend.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration(SSA) announced a policy change at the beginning of August of this year (2016), aimed at helping ease the transition of people with disabilities who are aging out of foster care, Youth Today reports. The policy change allows such people to apply for a federal supplemental security income (SSI) program six months (180 days) prior to leaving foster care, as opposed to only 90 days.

Advocates of the new policy say that the supplemental income is vital for young adults who are going to be on their own for the first time in their lives, according to the article. Providing funds during the six-months, will mitigate the chance of a foster youth having a gap in income while they wait to hear if they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Without federal assistance the situation for transitioning youth can become dire.

“It could cost you a home, it could cost you a job, it could mean you don’t have enough food to eat that month,” said Claire Grandison, staff attorney and Independence Foundation Fellow at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

Statistics from the Child Trends Databank indicate that foster youth without a disability can face serious challenges upon aging out of foster care, such as finding:
  • Employment
  • Health Care
  • Housing
“We know that foster youth with disabilities face a tremendous uphill battle as they prepare for adulthood and independence,” said Karen Lindell, an attorney at the Juvenile Law Center.

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who focuses her practice as a Social Security Disability advocate.

If you are a foster care parent and have a child in your care who is approaching age 18 with a disability, feel free to contact Attorney Driscoll.

Friday, September 2, 2016

SSA Cell Phone Policy Canceled

The Social Security Administration (SSA) attempted to make cell phones a necessity for those who receive benefits, but that plan seems to have backfired. Last month, the SSA announced that everyone with an online “mySocialSecurity” account, would need a cellular phone so that they could get security code text messages for logging into their account, The New York Times reports. And, as you might imagine, older Americans were not happy with the administration's new protocol, forcing the SSA to end the new cell phone policy.

“Our aggressive implementation inconvenienced or restricted access to some of our account holders,” said agency spokesman, Mark Hinkle. “We are listening to the public’s concerns and are responding by temporarily rolling back this mandate.” 

People who receive SSA benefits are able to log on to mySocialSecurity to manage their benefits, or make changes (i.e. selecting a bank account for automatic deposit), according to the article. Under the now rescinded plan, in order to log in online a text message security code would be sent to the beneficiaries' cell phones. An extra level of security, probably for the prevention of fraud or unauthorized access. While this is the 21st Century, and most Americans have cell phones, many older adults still use “landlines”—which cannot receive text messages.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, chairwoman of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, and Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, the ranking minority member, wrote to the SSA about the new policy, the article reports. They expressed that methods for stronger fraud protection “must be considered relative to the needs and circumstances of the target population.” 

“The new policy puts a high burden on American seniors, many of whom may not own a cellphone.” 

Stephanie Merritt Driscoll is an attorney in Southern California who focuses her practice as a Social Security Disability advocate.