Via Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
The Social Security Administration has a long history of outreach and coordination with advocates and community-based organizations across the nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to work with advocates and community-based organizations is essential to reaching the country’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals with low income, limited English proficiency, mental illness, or those facing homelessness. The agency is fully committed to assisting people in gaining access to the information and services they need with a specific emphasis on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
“I made this issue a strategic agency priority and focused resources to reach vulnerable communities and help them access our services and receive their benefits. I ask leaders in every community to share information about our programs with people and help them connect with us to apply for benefits,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “Social Security is working on many initiatives to reach vulnerable populations and I am pleased to share information about our national outreach campaign, developed in collaboration with leaders in the community, to raise awareness of the SSI and SSDI programs.”
To ensure effective outreach to these vulnerable populations who need access to agency programs, and to the advocates and organizations who can help to connect people with Social Security, the agency launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the SSI and SSDI programs and encourage people to apply. Campaign efforts include:
- A new webpage, People Helping Others, at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty, for anyone who could assist another person with accessing Social Security’s programs and services;
- A new outreach website, at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/groups/vulnerable-populations.html where all partner groups can access informational materials to share through their networks, including resources tailored to specific vulnerable populations;
- An updated Faith-Based and Community Groups website at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/groups/faithandcommunity.html with a new outreach toolkit and SSI and SSDI fact sheets. The agency coordinated this effort with the White House, and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is helping to promote these resources; and
An upcoming national advertising campaign to support all outreach efforts on TV, radio, and social media, with special emphasis on children with disabilities (see the recently redesigned website focused on SSI for children at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability/apply-child.html). TV and radio PSAs highlighting SSI for children currently are being tested in the Dallas, TX area to determine their impact.
The agency is now completing training videos for community-based caseworkers to help their clients with the SSI application process.
People can apply for SSI benefits, and for other benefit programs, through a telephone appointment with the agency, even while local offices are not able to accept walk-in visitors. More people need to be made aware of the SSI program and reminded that they can call toll-free 1-800-772-1213, or their local Social Security office, to make a phone appointment to apply for SSI. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call Social Security’s TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.