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A day in the life of a social worker: BFC’s SOAR Manager and DC SOAR Team Lead

As is typical of social workers, I wear many hats in my job.  I am the SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) Manager at Bread for the City.  In our SOAR program, we assist individuals with disabilities in the SSA (Social Security Administration) disability application process.  In my role as SOAR DC Team Lead, I provide training and support to DC SOAR providers, maintain relationships with SSA and DDS (Department of Disability Services) to maintain and improve our SOAR process, and advocate for SOAR funding and policies that support the quality use of the model.  Finally, I am a proud team member of our social services department and take a shift in our social services walk-ins where we provide brief assessments and short-term, solution-focused interventions.

While every day looks different, this is what I did on Wednesday, February 21st, and it highlights some of what I do in my job:

8:30 am: I head over to University of the District of Columbia to meet with one of the social workers in their TANF-POWER program.  UDC has hired a team of case managers to assist individuals on TANF who are exempt from work requirements due to a disability. One part of their job is to assist in the SSI/SSDI application process using SOAR.   

As part of my role as DC Team Lead, I am training these case managers to use the SOAR process.  I have learned that each different organization or setting that is doing SOAR could use assistance in making the model work for them, so I am meeting with one of the case managers to learn more details about their work flow so I can provide them with the best tools to be able to complete quality SOAR applications.

10:30 am: After a productive meeting, I leave UDC with a new perspective and ideas on how I can assist in setting up their SOAR program.  I also agreed to mentor the case manager through her first case. While riding the metro back to my office, we exchange emails on the next steps and agree to be in touch as she starts working with her newest client.

11:00 am: I arrive at the office and catch up with two of our social work student interns. Each is working with a SOAR client and we discuss next steps.

Dylan has Ms. B come in to sign a 1696 form, allowing us to be her representative.  Ms. B was referred to us through the medical clinic, and she has been out of work for a couple of years.  She was injured on the job and has been unable to go back despite surgery and other interventions. Ms. B is now facing homelessness and hopes to be approved for SSDI benefits before her worker’s compensation money is no longer available.

11:30am: I go upstairs to our medical clinic to pump, because in addition to being a social worker, I am a mom to two, including one baby!  I also take this opportunity to eat lunch.

12:30pm: I have a rare afternoon with no appointments or meetings so I take advantage by catching up on a lot of client work and admin tasks.  These include the following:

  • I call a Spanish-speaking medical patient (I am bilingual) who is interested in discussing SSA benefits. We agree to meet on Monday to explore the possibility of applying for disability.
  • I return calls to Department on Disability Services, the DC government agency that contracts with SSA to make the decision based on medical evidence provided. I work closely with the examiners to ensure they receive the records we obtained and the report we write to supplement the application.
  • I email Aja Taylor, Bread for the City’s Advocacy Director, to set up a meeting to discuss how we can work together to support the SOAR leadership team’s goals for the city
  • I emailed a manager at one of our local SSA offices to discuss a client issue

2:00pm: Ms. Rebecca, a therapist at BFC, brought over sparkling cider to celebrate the recent news that DC was listed in the top 10 SOAR states!  All 50 (+1) states have the SOAR model and DC’s outcomes in the last fiscal year were in the top 10. It’s a huge accomplishment and I’m so proud of the work our SOAR providers have done to get us here.  I am also so grateful to work at a place where co-workers recognize the importance of celebrating successes.

3:30pm: I head out to pick up my daughter from school and spend the rest of the evening with my family.

9:00pm: After the kids are asleep, I read the rest of the afternoon’s emails.  I reply to Taylor, one of our attorneys. She referred a client who was at risk of losing his housing due to lack of income.  He has lived with an intellectual disability but has never applied for benefits. We are hoping together we can secure income as well as his housing.

I also review one a medical summary report (a SOAR tool) written by one of our students and make suggestions.

Finally, I’m ready to go to bed myself and recharge for another full day tomorrow.  I feel grateful for having a job that I love and being able to use my skills and experience to join in the work of our community.

Ashley’s work on SOAR is made possible via support from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Jack R. Anderson Foundation, and supporters like you. 

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