Making it Easier for You to Receive Benefits

Faster decisions for your compensation, pension, or Survivor benefit claims

Filing is easier. Learn more.
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See the changes to VA benefits
Learn more about claims here

Putting you in control of your disability claim    

Last month, VA reached a historic low in the disability claims backlog by dipping below 100,000 to 98,535 – and the number of these claims (pending more than 125 days) has come down even further since. This milestone means that VA is processing disability claims faster and more efficiently so that Veterans, their families, and Survivors get the benefits they deserve.     

By participating in the Fully Developed Claims program, Veterans and Survivors can take charge of their claims by submitting all relevant records with their claims at once. The fastest way to receive a decision on your disability claim is by filing an FDC electronically through

Visit VA's website to learn more about filing an electronic Fully Developed Claim and what you can do to get started.
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FY 2015 Continuum of Care Program Competition NOFA – Revised

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD Exchange Mailing List

FY 2015 Continuum of Care Program Competition NOFA – Revised

A revised FY 2015 CoC Program Competition NOFA has been posted to the FY 2015 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program NOFA: CoC Program Competition page on the HUD Exchange.
Corrections, posted September 24, 2015, include corrections to internal citations throughout the NOFA and corrections to the date ranges for HUD forms such as the HUD-2880 and HUD-5007. All corrections are noted in red font and yellow highlights.
The corrections made to the NOFA will not extend the submission deadline, November 20, 2015, at 7:59:59 PM EST.


If you have questions pertaining to e-snaps technical issues, please submit your questions to the e-snaps Ask A Question (AAQ) portal on the HUD Exchange website. To submit a question to the e-snaps AAQ portal, select “e-snaps” from the “My question is related to” drop down list on Step 2 of the question submission process.
If you have questions related to the CoC Program interim rule or a policy related question, please submit your questions to the CoC Program Ask A Question (AAQ) portal. To submit a question to the CoC Program AAQ portal, select “CoC Program” from the “My question is related to” drop down list on Step 2 of the question submission process.
The AAQ accepts question submissions 24/7. However, responses are usually provided between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except for weekends and federal holidays. Additionally, per the FY 2015 CoC Program Competition NOFA, starting 2 days prior to the application deadline for FY 2015 funds, the AAQ will respond only to emergency technical support questions up to the deadline of Friday, November 20, 2015 at 7:59:59 PM EST.

Announcing the Latest Updates to Suicide Safe


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Announcing the Latest Updates to Suicide Safe
Suicide Safe Screen Shot
SAMHSA has released an updated version of Suicide Safe, the award-winning mobile app that helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. Download the latest version today!
New Content
Explore a new case study. Learn about Rena, a 34-year-old Native American woman with a history of sexual abuse and substance use.
Access a new video resource for clinicians. Addressing Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Substance Abuse Treatment provides guidance to counselors who work with persons in need of suicide assessment or intervention.
View a new video resource for patients. Stories of Hope and Recovery: A Video Guide for Suicide Attempt Survivors features inspiring stories from suicide-attempt survivors.
Enhanced Features
View Suicide Safe in larger default font in iPhone® and Android™ versions of the app, with an option to further increase text size, as needed.
Don't Have the App?
Download Suicide Safe today!
Google Play iTunes App Store

Like SAMHSA on Facebook   Follow SAMHSA on Twitter   Subscribe to SAMHSA's YouTube Channel   Visit the SAMHSA Dialogue Blog

DOL-VETS Announces $1.6 Million to Help Formerly Incarcerated Vets Return to Work, Avoid Homelessness

DOL-VETS Announces $1.6 Million to Help Formerly Incarcerated Vets Return to Work, Avoid Homelessness
Funds to serve more than 650 veterans in six states
WASHINGTON — Supporting the president's goal to eliminate homelessness among U.S. military veterans, the U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service today announced the award of $1.5 million in grants to help once-incarcerated veterans considered "at-risk" of becoming homeless. In all, seven grants will serve more than 650 formerly incarcerated veterans in six states.
"Everyone deserves a second chance, especially the men and women who have sacrificed for our country," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program (IVTP) opens doors for veterans who may have struggled but who want to return to America's workforce. Today's grants will help these veterans become valuable contributors to the nation's economic recovery and our society."

The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program grants will provide referral and counseling services to assist in reintegrating and/or transitioning formerly incarcerated veterans considered "at-risk" of becoming homeless to meaningful employment. The funds will also support the development of methods to address the complex problems facing these veterans. The program's design is flexible, to enable it to address national, regional and/or local issues that prevent once-incarcerated veterans from returning to the workforce.
The grant recipients and award amounts are as follows:
Veterans Multi-Service Center
Goodwill Industries of Houston
Volunteers of America of Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Impact Services Corporation
United States Veterans Initiative
Las Vegas
The Workplace Inc.
Aletheia House, Inc.

For more information on these grants, visit
For the latest news, resources and grant information, visit our website at
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
333 1/2 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20003
202-546-1969 or toll-free 1-800-VET-HELP

Always use our manuals. NEVER guess! Proper data saves hours! 

A Super-Sized Successful SOAR

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR)
Seasons of SOAR !

September 2015
SOAR Works for Maryland  
Hands holding up pieces of paper with letters that spell SOAR.   
Continuing to SOAR: Three New Dedicated SOAR positions!


BHA recently received word that its application for a three year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was approved!
This grant, the Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI), will allow the state to enhance behavioral health and peer recovery services using various evidence-based and promising practices to individuals who are homeless, and includes new dedicated SOAR positions in Anne Arundel and Carroll Counties!
Additionally, as part of BHA's new Housing First pilot project, Emily Gordon from HCH is the new dedicated SOAR case manager working with individuals transitioning from Spring Grove Hospital Center.

What is SOAR?
SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) is a federal initiative that expedites and improves access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and diagnosed with a mental illness and/or co-occurring disorder. These programs, administered by the Social Security Administration, provide income and access to health insurance for individuals that are unable to work due to medical and/or psychiatric  conditions.
The application process is complex and difficult to navigate. Through effective partnerships, technical assistance and training, the SOAR Initiative aims to increase the amount of applications and approvals for vulnerable individuals. For more information about SOAR visit
 Current Data

As of June 2015, data has been collected on over 970 SOAR claims.

The overall state approval rate is 81%. For initial claims the state approval rate is 82% (compared with the SOAR national average of 65%) and
our average processing times for initial cases is 76 days.

New Maryland
 SOAR Trainers
The first Maryland SOAR Train the Trainer program was held on March 9, 2015. Rich Schiffauer, Carmela Amankwaah and Bilqis Rock successfully completed the program and are now certified SOAR trainers for Maryland.
Maryland State
BHA is delighted to announce that, following Marian Bland's promotion to Deputy Director of the Clinical Services Division, Caroline Bolas, Director of the Maryland SOAR Initiative, has taken over the role of Maryland's State SOAR Lead.

A Super-Sized
Successful Start
to SOAR in
the Mid-Shore

 We are delighted that the Mid-shore region is our latest new recruit to SOAR-thanks especially to Johanna Norris for her wonderful leadership in bringing SOAR to Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne and Talbot Counties! On July 7 and 8, 2015, providers from across the mid-shore counties and other regions of the state participated in a two day SOAR training in Easton.
Further SOAR trainings will be held in September in Catonsville and Hagerstown.
To find out more, contact your SOAR lead or Caroline Bolas at

 A large room with high wooden ceilings. Dozens of people are sitting at tables and listening to a woman speaker.
SOAR Community Celebrates, Shares at 2nd Annual SOAR Conference

On Thursday, June 18, 2015, over 90 SOAR providers and partners gathered to participate in Maryland's second annual SOAR conference! The day featured presentations and breakout sessions on SOAR-related topics such as immigration and SSI/SSDI, traumatic brain injury and the disability determination process, substance use disorders, the role of the consultative examination, and understanding the appeals process. The day also included opportunities to interact with representatives from Disability Determination Services and from the SOAR national technical assistance center.

For many participants one of the highlights of the conference was hearing three individuals who received SOAR services share their personal stories and experience of working through the Social Security process with SOAR. The powerful stories offered a glimpse into their journeys and how SOAR not only assisted in accessing the benefits they needed, but helped them to realize their ability to contribute to our community and find meaning and purpose.

The conference was also an opportunity to recognize the efforts and achievements of all those involved in Maryland's SOAR Initiative past and present. As part of this, the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) presented the following awards:
L - R: Caroline Bolas, Carmen Garcia, Veronica Henry, Sharon Lemone, Patrick Connealy, Marian Bland  
 * Most SOAR Approvals in FY2015: Carmela Amankawaah of Montgomery County (SOAR funded position)
* Agency with Most SOAR approvals in FY2015 (unfunded): Community Case Management of Montgomery County)
* Agency with Most SOAR approvals in FY2015 (funded): Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) of Baltimore City
* Outstanding dedication award: Victoria Frazer of Prince George's County
* Outstanding Collaboration Award: Amy Baker of Carroll County

Additionally, Margaret Flanagan became the second inductee into Maryland's SOAR Hall of Fame. As the Baltimore City SOAR Lead for the past five years, Margaret's energy and innovation has contributed significantly to SOAR's success across the state.
Finally, the SOAR local leads across Maryland collectively presented awards to the State SOAR leadership team.
L - R: Vicky Frazer, Kathie DiNoto, Michelle Petersen, Kate Callahan, Melissa Wright Powell, Bilqis Rock, Jessica Kraus, Amy Baker, Richard Schiffauer, Caroline Bolas, Marian Bland, Margaret Flanagan

 The day was a huge success.  Special thanks to the planning committee, the State SOAR planning group and all the presenters. Handouts from the conference can be obtained by emailing

An illustration of a house and set of keys in front of the planet Earth.
Housing First Pilot Program Stabilizes Lives
Income is a crucial step in the recovery process. However, even with a stable income, finding and maintaining housing can prove difficult. A new BHA Housing First pilot program is providing rental assistance and case management services for a number of individuals, including those who were approved for SSI/SSDI through SOAR, in Baltimore City, and Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Mr. J is a participant in the Baltimore City program.
Mr. J, assisted by staff at HCH, obtained SSI through SOAR in 2014. Mr. J is an animated 50-year-old man who loves to tell stories and who has a keen sense of humor. He grew up in a family in which both his father and oldest brother were physically and sexually abusive towards the younger children.  He dropped out of school in the 9th grade, and spent much of his teen and adult life homeless, addicted, and on the streets of Baltimore or incarcerated; throughout these years, he witnessed much traumatizing violence.  He has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Unspecified Personality Disorder, PTSD, and Alcohol and Cocaine Use Disorders. 
It was not until release from prison in 2014 that he sought ongoing mental health, medical, and addictions treatment at HCH and was able to control his substance abuse. He moved in with his sister. Unfortunately, not long after, he was traumatized again. Mr. J ran to the aid of a female neighbor who was crying for help, but then was brutally assaulted and robbed by the attackers and the supposed victim.  He had to have several surgeries to his face and jaw because of the assault. The trauma was compounded by the unsupportive reaction of his family, including his sister, who asked him to leave. He began using cocaine again as a way to soothe his anger and nightmares.
In the past year, Mr. J has worked with his mental health therapist and other providers to rebuild his life. He is no longer taking cocaine, has reduced his drinking, and now has a supportive girlfriend.  Through the Housing First pilot, in April 2015 he obtained the first housing that he has ever had on his own. He is extremely appreciative, and when newly housed, gave hilarious descriptions of himself walking around the apartment and 'oohing and ahhing' over every feature.  "I'm finally a real person with a real home," he said tearfully.  "God cares about me."