SOAR Online Course Increases Capacity for Assisting Individuals with Disabilities in the US

  • Lupfer K
  • Elder J
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For adults with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness, chances of being approved for social security disability benefits are very low, without assistance. Assisting with the Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process can be challenging for case managers who lack capacity and expertise. Training caseworkers to document disability and submit complete, high-quality applications using the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) model improves efficiency and outcomes. Nationally, 65% of applications using the SOAR model are approved, with decisions received in an average of 81 days in 2015. The SOAR Online Course was created to expand training opportunities for individuals to learn how to effectively assist with SSI/SSDI applications for individuals experiencing or at risk for homelessness. From October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, 1049 individuals from 49 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico successfully completed the SOAR Online Course. The course is a unique public health training model; in that, it incorporates a realistic and multimodal practice SSI/SSDI application with comprehensive feedback provided by experts. Local SOAR leaders around the county are trained to facilitate and guide groups through the course. This study evaluated data on online course usage, user experience, and the translation from learning to practice for online course trainees. We found that successful course completions were most concentrated in areas that had local SOAR leaders, trainees through the online course had higher data entry rates about case outcomes in the SOAR Online Application Tracking system, and that trainees reported a high satisfaction rate with the course and comprehensive feedback. The evaluation found that key success factors for online training models include the integration of a practice case component (or other generative learning activity), support from local facilitators, and feedback and technical assistance for trainees.




Lupfer, K., & Elder, J. (2016). SOAR Online Course Increases Capacity for Assisting Individuals with Disabilities in the US. Frontiers in Public Health, 4.

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