Social Security COVID-19 Outreach – Community News
Social Security

Social Security COVID-19 Outreach

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees a number of programs that provide financial assistance to eligible Americans, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Social Security retirement benefits. To increase access to these and other programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA recently launched a comprehensive outreach initiative targeting vulnerable populations. These efforts are designed to make access to Social Security benefits easier, especially for those who qualify for SSI or SSDI benefits.

Key learning points

  • Social Security programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, can provide financial relief to individuals who qualify to receive them.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to those programs and benefits more difficult for some Americans.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) is taking steps to improve outreach so that those eligible for the SSI and SSDI programs can get the help they need.
  • Outreach efforts include the launch of several new websites that can make it easier for friends and family members to help others access Social Security programs.

Social Security and COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSA has closed all offices to the public as of March 2020. Individuals already receiving Social Security benefits and those interested in applying have been instructed to use the SSA’s online services portal or to call their local Social Security office instead of in-person visits.

While these measures were taken to protect the health of SSA employees and the individuals they serve, the SSA has recognized that more assistance is needed during the pandemic. The outreach focuses in particular on vulnerable populations, including those with low incomes, limited English language skills and mental illness, and those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

In order to reach out to people who need help from SSI or SSDI, the SSA has announced several measures to achieve that goal. Those include:

  • Launch of the People Helping Others website, which is designed to make it easier for everyone to help someone else access Social Security programs and services
  • Create a separate outreach website that encourages the sharing of social security program material and information with vulnerable populations
  • Launch of an outreach website for faith-based and community groups to promote Social Security programs to those in need
  • Supporting a national TV, radio and social media advertising campaign to direct parents of children with disabilities to the SSI website
  • Updating training procedures for community-based caseworkers to enable them to better assist people in applying for SSI benefits

Each of these initiatives aims to educate people about the benefits they can qualify for through SSI and/or SSDI and how to apply for them.

Remark

You can request SSI by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or the SSA’s TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Benefits of SSI and SSDI explained

If you are unfamiliar with supplemental or disability insurance, you may not be aware of the benefits available. But it’s important to understand that Social Security isn’t just for retirement.

Social Security benefits are paid to you upon retirement, and what you receive is based on your lifetime earnings. However, SSI benefits are not based on your work history. Instead, they are aimed at people who are 65 years of age or older and who are on a low income or who are blind or disabled.

In terms of what you can receive through SSI, the benefits include:

Tip

People who qualify for SSI benefits may also qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. You can apply for both with the same application.

The SSDI program provides income support to people with disabilities. This program pays benefits to you based on the employment history of you and your family members. You must be able to demonstrate that you are permanently incapacitated for work to be eligible for benefits through the program.

Important

If you have a disability but are still working, you may not be eligible for SSDI benefits if your earnings exceed a certain amount.

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits During COVID-19

The SSA’s outreach efforts are designed to make it easier to learn and apply for SSI and SSDI benefits during the pandemic, especially for those who may have limited access to the Internet or phone services. If you believe you qualify for SSI benefits, SSDI benefits, or Social Security retirement benefits, you can apply by phone or online. Learn more about what you need to apply for SSI and SSDI benefits here.

Apply for SSI benefits

Before applying for SSI, the SSA recommends reviewing the eligibility requirements. Again, you must be blind or disabled or at least 65 years old and on a low income to qualify.

If you meet any of these requirements, you can apply for benefits online, call the SSA’s toll-free number, or call your local SSA office. Please note that someone can assist you in completing your application by appointing them as an external representative.

To complete your application, you must provide the following:

  • your name
  • Your date and place of birth and social security number
  • Your current or former spouse’s name, social security number and date of birth
  • Names and dates of birth of your minor children
  • Bank account information, including your account number and routing number for direct deposit benefits
  • Names and contact details of your healthcare providers
  • Details about the nature of your disability
  • Names of medicines you take and who prescribed them
  • Names and dates of medical tests you have completed
  • Information about your previous year’s earnings
  • Name and contact details of your employer
  • Start and end date for military service, if applicable
  • Information about any workers’ compensation or government benefits you are already receiving

Once you have completed the application with that information, you must also provide supporting documentation. That includes:

  • Your birth certificate or other birth certificate
  • Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status
  • US military discharge papers, if applicable
  • W-2 Forms and Tax Returns
  • Medical documentation of your disability
  • Evidence of workers’ compensation or other government benefits you receive

Remark

When submitting a birth certificate and other documents (excluding W-2s, tax returns, or medical forms), the SSA requires originals, not photocopies.

Apply for SSDI benefits

You can apply for SSDI benefits online after completing the application checklist. This checklist tells you what type of information to request, including:

  • your name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Name and date of birth of your current or former spouse
  • Names and dates of birth for minor children
  • US Military Service Start and End Dates
  • Work and income data, including information related to self-employment
  • bank account information
  • Information about the nature of your disability
  • Contact details for each of your healthcare providers
  • Work History
  • Information about your education and training

You will also need to complete a medical release form so that the SSA can review your medical history.

After you submit your application for SSI or SSDI benefits, the SSA will review everything to determine what you qualify for and what amount of benefits you qualify for. Please note that during this assessment period you may be asked to provide additional information or documentation. Delaying or failing to do so may delay the processing of your application or result in it being rejected.

Warning

The SSA advises people to be aware of coronavirus-related scams, including those that may attempt to trick you into receiving Social Security benefits and/or benefits with economic consequences.