Today, the Law Center released Improving Access, a new report on how bureaucratic barriers are preventing thousands of homeless Americans from accessing Social Security disability benefits that could help them get off the street.
Social Security benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are critical to keeping people with disabilities in stable housing through income support and health services. Unfortunately, the application process is cumbersome and freezes out many eligible homeless people. While up to 40 percent are potentially eligible due to physical or mental disability, only 14 percent actually receive benefits.
One key barrier is the severe restriction on the types of health care workers who can provide a medical diagnosis. Most health clinics for homeless people are staffed by non-doctors, such as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. As a result, homeless people’s disability claims lack accepted medical evidence and are not approved—perpetuating homelessness.
Only allowing a doctor’s diagnosis is meant to prevent fraud and ensure only eligible individuals can access benefits. But according to Improving Access, this approach is inefficient and unnecessary. There are 38 percent more nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants practicing primary care today than there are doctors, and their licensing and education requirements are stringent.
The result of all of this? The current policy prevents thousands of homeless people from accessing critical services, while also wasting government resources. Letting these other highly-trained professionals provide a diagnosis is just common sense for everyone involved.
To read the full report, click here.
– Andy Beres, Development & Communications Coordinator