Getting Benefits When You Are Homeless

My nephew, who has been homeless for more than two years on the streets of Camden NJ, has often tried to be admitted to Cooper Hospital to receive care for a number of medical conditions and to try and get off of the streets when it is cold. As someone that also has a drug addiction, he also attempts to get drugs for pain during these attempts. As with my friend Ray’s suggestion to contact the social worker that is available in the hospital and nursing homes to locate someone to install a ramp, social workers also help patients with drug addictions locate programs to assist them with their issues.

During one of his extended stays in the hospital, services were provided to meet his various needs and he was also signed up for Supplemental Social Security benefits. As a current patient, he only qualified for $50.00 a month to cover incidental needs. When he was released, he continued to receive $50.00 a month. After more than two years at this modest level, he was readmitted to Cooper Hospital and was placed in a program to deal with his addiction and other medical conditions which also included temporary housing at a local motel, a phone with minutes and a case manager and team of professionals to work with him. During this time, one member of his team reviewed his status and contacted Social Security because he believed that he was receiving the wrong amount.

It was determined that he was actually entitled to significantly more than $50.00 a month and that he would benefit from having a representative payee to handle a retroactive payment that would be in the thousands of dollars. Aaron was already using my address in Monmouth County to forward his mail and I volunteered to be his representative payee. During this time I was also working with Aaron to complete the forms sent to me and forward them to the local Social Security office. Because the offices were not actually open, a telephone interview was scheduled. We held the meeting in his case manager’s office and soon realized that they were not going to just send him the money.

After almost an hour on the phone with the claim’s investigator, we were able to submit an application for me to be his representative payee, but we were not able to get his claim appeal settled. He was still listed as a patient in the hospital, his last actual address was his mother’s apartment in Gloucester county, his mail was forwarded to me in Monmouth county and they wanted a detailed explanation of all hospital admissions, discharges and the locations that he had lived in since the initial claim was submitted. We were able to schedule a phone interview in January to provide this information. As long as Aaron completes all of the requirements for his program, he will keep his current temporary housing at the motel and his team will continue to provide services including the possibility of an apartment.

The important thing to keep in mind is that this is not an easy or quick process and the homeless are not usually equipped to figure all this out. The hardest part is to keep Aaron focused of controlling what he can control and remain as calm as he can. With all of the disappointments and bad decision making, keeping him calm and focused on what can be is a major task. The pandemic makes it even more difficult because everything is virtual and has an extended time frame. To make matters even worse, they have stopped his $50.00 benefit until they can confirm all of the information that they are questioning. What can the homeless do when they don’t have the help and resources that they need to keep up with the required correspondence and basic needs of food, shelter and clothing?

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I have a BA in Psychology and a teaching certificate as a Special Education teacher. I have a MA in Student Personnel Services and I recently retired from my position as a Guidance Counselor. I have been active on advisory boards concerning disability issues for over 25 years. I also have over 25 years of business experience in Human Resources and Operations Management.

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