Social Security Administration Makes it Difficult to Obtain ID

Cleveland is one of the few communities in the United States to have a collaborative ID program for homeless people.  This was organized way back in 2005 by one of our VISTAs, Joseph, at NEOCH with most of the homeless programs in Cleveland participating.  The program is led by staff at West Side Catholic and St. Colman's Catholic Church.  Last week, we were notified that the Social Security Administration had tightened their rules and will not give a printout indicating the individual has a social security number without proof of citizenship and identity.  Since a national identification card does not exist and when people lose their important papers that typically includes a birth certificate, this is a hardship for homeless and low income individuals. 

This June 24th memo issued by the Social Security Administration will complicate the ability for individuals to receive the print out that they do have a social security number.  This printout was used by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as a secondary document to prove that the individual had a social security number in order to receive a State ID.  Now, SSA is saying that you have to have a State ID first to the get the print out and the State is saying you have to have the Social Security card or print out in order to get the ID card.  It is a Catch 22 that will only complicates the lives of poor people.  This new policy will make it more difficult to get identification and prolong a person's homelessness.  It will take longer to get identification to vote, find housing, find a job and get non-emergency health care.  This will keep people living in the shelters for a longer period of time and cost the City and County money to house, feed and cloth these individuals. 

We heard from one social service provider who wrote a letter on letterhead detailing the association with the client and confirming their records of her social security number, and that worked.  The client was able to get a print out of their social security number from SSA.  This all seems like overkill since the client was always made to swear to their own identity at the SSA office and have that document  notarized becoming a legal document.  What was the issue, and what was the problem they are trying to solve?  Now, they are accepting documents from for-profit sources such as an employer identification card, health insurance card, and school identification card as proof of identity.   There is a thought that a letter from the Department of Jobs and Family Services indicating the individual's social security number might work.  We are not sure how this will all play out and what documents will be acceptable.  Will the Street Chronicle ID that our vendors carry count? Will a letter back from the Housing Authority about the clients housing status count if it has their social security number?  Will the RTA disabled bus pass be acceptable?  Will different SSA offices accept different documents?  It is all confusing and does not inspire confidence in our government. We hope to meet with Congressional staff to look into this issue.

Brian Davis

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