Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law) Expansion: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Services

tags: Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law) at Kennedy Krieger Institute

By Emma Barbato, Esq., staff attorney for Project HEAL

For many patients at Kennedy Krieger Institute, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a lifeline, offering crucial support to vulnerable populations. However, the system is complex and often does not favor those who need assistance the most. The average national approval rate for initial applications is around 38%. The process becomes even more discouraging as appeals are denied at a rate of around 85%. Consequently, individuals who are already navigating life with a disability are left without assistance and can feel hopeless.

The application processes for SSI and SSDI are often complex, and many individuals who are entitled to this aid are denied without guidance from an attorney. Recognizing this gap, Project HEAL has expanded its civil legal services to include assistance in the application and appeals processes for Kennedy Krieger patients eligible for SSI or SSDI. To accomplish this work, Project HEAL has hired a full-time staff attorney, Emma Barbato, Esq., to address these needs. The funding for this expansion was generously donated by families receiving services at Kennedy Krieger who wanted more families to have access to SSI and SSDI benefits.

In addition to assisting individuals with the application process, Project HEAL plans to offer resources for Institute faculty members, staff and trainees. These resources will help professionals identify individuals eligible for services and provide guidance on understanding the application process and timeline. This may include training sessions, consultations and community outreach initiatives aimed at providing information and resources.

Through these expanded services, Project HEAL aims to empower Kennedy Krieger patients and their families by providing them with knowledge about their rights and access to assistance to support themselves and their families.

For more information about Project HEAL, SSI or SSDI, please call 443-923-4414 or email To inquire about receiving SSI or SSDI services from Project HEAL, contact Emma Barbato, Esq., staff attorney for Project HEAL, by calling 667-205-4521 or emailing