Manatt Coauthors Report on Social Security Access for the Homeless

Manatt Health partnered with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty to coauthor a report illustrating the barriers preventing homeless individuals from accessing Social Security benefits. The report, “Improving Access: Expanding Acceptable Medical Sources for the Social Security Administration Disability Determination Process,” was released on May 16, 2012, and offers solutions on how to increase access.

Manatt’s and the Law Center’s months of research and analysis reveal that thousands of homeless Americans have trouble accessing Social Security benefits, including Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance, which are critical to keeping people with disabilities in stable housing through income support and health services. The application process is cumbersome and freezes out many eligible people, as up to 40 percent are potentially eligible due to physical or mental disability but only 14 percent actually receive benefits.

One key barrier is the severe restriction on the types of healthcare workers who can provide a medical diagnosis. Most health clinics are staffed by non-doctors, and as a result, homeless people’s disability claims lack accepted medical evidence and are not approved. The report calls this approach inefficient and unnecessary, since 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.

In a press release announcing the report’s findings, William S. Bernstein, chair of the firm’s Healthcare Division, remarked that “the changes recommended in the report are necessary to ensure homeless and low-income Americans are not left waiting for critical care and benefits.”

Manatt associate Anne O. Karl added, “The health clinics that provide services at low or no cost are typically staffed by trained and talented, yet non-physician, providers. As this report demonstrates, doors can and should be opened for those individuals currently stuck in the administrative waiting room.”

Manatt partner and Director of Pro Bono Services Cristin Zeisler, associate Kimberly Kerry and Manatt Health Solutions professional Kier A. Wallis also assisted with the report.

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