There are an estimated half a million people in the United States living in a state of homelessness due to lack of affordable housing, lack of employment opportunities, and a decline in available public assistance. Domestic violence, addiction, and mental illness or disability are also major factors contributing to homelessness. Notwithstanding, those experiencing homelessness have the same rights and privileges in applying for benefits under the Social Security Act as individuals who are not homeless. While living arrangements may affect your eligibility and the amount of benefit under Title XVI, it does not affect benefits under Title II.
People experiencing homelessness may not always feel safe or comfortable disclosing their housing status, but it is important to inform Social Security Administration (SSA) of your housing situation during the application process so that they may better assist you. When SSA is aware that a claimant is experiencing homelessness, the agency can implement special procedures designed to expedite the claims process for vulnerable claimants.
Claimants who lack a consistent address often have difficulty maintaining regular contact with SSA. Transient populations have limited or no ability to receive regular mail or may not have the skills necessary to understand and respond timely to written notices they receive from SSA. Often, adjudicators at SSA will need to call the claimant for information or to follow up on a mailed request. It may be helpful to appoint a legal representative or contact person with a reliable mailing address and a consistent phone number.
The homeless population often may not have formal identification documents. These documents may have been lost or stolen and claimants may not have the funds to pay for replacements, though there is no cost to obtaining a replacement Social Security card. This lack of identifying documents can be a significant barrier to accessing benefits, getting work, or qualifying for housing assistance programs. If you are required to appear at a hearing, however, you will need identification to enter any federal building. Your appointed contact can also help locate records and keep track of identification documents for you.
If you remain homeless when awarded benefits, you may choose to have your funds deposited directly into your personal bank account, directed to a debit bank card, paid to a representative payee, or mailed to a third party.