SNAP Special Rules for the Elderly or Disabled
Most SNAP rules apply to all households, but there are a few special
rules for households that contain an elderly or disabled member.
Who is Elderly?
A person is elderly if he or she is 60 years of age or older.
Who is Disabled?
Generally, a person is considered to be disabled for
if he or she:
- Receives Federal disability or blindness payments under the Social
Security Act, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social
Security disability or blindness payments; or
- Receives State disability or blindness payments based on SSI rules;
- Receives a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency
because of a disability considered permanent under the Social Security
- Receives an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and is eligible
for Medicare or is considered to be disabled based on the SSI rules;
- Is a veteran who is totally disabled, permanently housebound, or in
need of regular aid and attendance; or
- Is a surviving spouse or child of a veteran who is receiving VA benefits
and is considered to be permanently disabled.
How do I Get SNAP benefits?
A member of your household has to apply at the local
It should be listed in the government section of the local telephone book.
This is generally the quickest way to find the local SNAP office. If
that doesn't work, try calling the SNAP Hotline
for your State. Most of them are toll free numbers.
If you are unable to go to the SNAP office, you may have another
person, called an authorized representative, apply and be interviewed
on your behalf. You must designate the authorized representative in writing.
Normally a household must file an application form, have a face-to-face
interview, and provide proof (verification) of certain information, such
as income and expenses. The office interview may be waived if the household
is unable to appoint an authorized representative and no household member
is able to go to the SNAP office because of age or disability. If
the office interview is waived, the SNAP office will interview you
by telephone or do a home visit. A home visit must be scheduled beforehand
with the household.
What is a Household?
Everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares meals together
is grouped together as one household. However, if a person is 60 years
of age or older and he or she is unable to purchase and prepare meals
separately because of a permanent disability, the person and the person's
spouse may be a separate household if the others they live with do not
have very much income. (less than 165 percent of the poverty level.)
Some people who live together, such as husbands and wives and most children
under age 22, are included in the same household, even if they purchase
and prepare meals separately.
Normally people are not eligible for SNAP benefits if an institution gives
them their meals. However, there is one exception for elderly persons
and one for disabled persons:
- Residents of federally subsidized housing for the elderly may be eligible
for SNAP benefits, even though they receive their meals at the facility.
- Disabled persons who live in certain nonprofit group living arrangements
(small group homes with no more than 16 residents) may be eligible for
SNAP benefits, even though the group home prepares their meals for them.
What Resources Can I Have (and Still Get SNAP
Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank
account, or $3,250 in countable resources if at least one person is age
60 or older, or is disabled. However, certain resources are NOT counted,
such as a home and lot, the resources of people who receive Supplemental
Security Income (SSI), the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and most
retirement (pension) plans. An important exception to this is that in the State of
California SSI recipients are not eligible for SNAP benefits, because
they receive a State supplement to their SSI benefits in lieu of SNAP
The procedures for handling vehicles are determined at the state level. States have the option of substituting the vehicle rules used in their TANF assistance programs for SNAP vehicle rules when it results in a lower attribution of household assets. A number of States exclude the entire value of the householdís primary vehicle as an asset. In States that count the value of vehicles, the fair market value of each licensed vehicle that is not excluded is evaluated. Currently 39 States exclude the value of all vehicles entirely. 11 States totally exclude the value of at least one vehicle per household. The 3 remaining states exempt an amount higher than the SNAPís standard auto exemption (currently set at $4,650) from the fair market value to determine the countable resource value of a vehicle. For more information concerning State specific vehicle policy, check with the State agency that administers the SNAP program.
What Are the Income Limits?
Most households have to meet both a monthly gross income test and a monthly
net income test to be eligible for SNAP benefits. However, households in
which all members are receiving SSI or TANF are considered to be eligible
based on income. Other households with one or more elderly members only
have to meet the net income test.
Net income is gross income minus certain deductions.
What Deductions Are Allowed?
The allowable deductions are: a standard deduction for all households;
a 20 percent earned income deduction; a deduction for dependent care costs when
necessary for work, training, or education; a deduction for legally owed
child support payments; a deduction for medical costs for elderly and
disabled people; and an excess shelter cost deduction.
Medical deduction. For elderly members and disabled
members, allowable medical
costs that are more than $35 a month may be deducted unless an insurance
company or someone who is not a household member pays for them. Only the
amount over $35 each month may be deducted. Allowable costs include most
medical and dental expenses, such as doctor bills, prescription drugs
and other over-the-counter medication when approved by a doctor, dentures,
inpatient and outpatient hospital expenses, and nursing care. They also
include other medically related expenses, such as certain transportation
costs, attendant care, and health insurance premiums. The costs of special
diets are not allowable medical costs. Proof of medical expenses and insurance
payments is required before a deduction for these expenses may be allowed.
Shelter deduction. The shelter deduction is for shelter
costs that are more than half of the household's income after other deductions.
Allowable shelter costs include the costs of rent or mortgage, taxes,
interest, and utilities such as gas, electricity, and water. For most
households, there is a limit on the amount of the deduction that can be
allowed, but for a household with an elderly or disabled member all shelter
costs over half of the household's income may be deducted.
Receiving SNAP Benefits:
States issue SNAP benefits through local State or
county offices to households that are eligible to receive them. States issue
SNAP benefits through Electronic
Benefit Transfer (EBT). The household pays for its groceries at authorized food stores (almost
all food stores are authorized) by using the EBT card at the checkout counter.
It works like the bank debit card that other people use to pay for their
groceries in increasing numbers of stores. The cost of the groceries bought
is deducted from the household's account automatically. Most other people in line will not notice that the person checking out is paying with SNAP benefits. We have found that SNAP households like this feature, because it reduces the stigma many people feel in using SNAP.
A second advantage is that the household no longer needs to go anywhere
to pick up benefits each month. Benefits are automatically loaded into
the household's account each month on the designated date. We have found
that households especially enjoy this feature.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in
all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national
origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation,
or marital and family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication
of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should
contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of
Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue,
SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD).
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Contact your local SNAP office for further information or to file
an application for SNAP benefits. For more information on the treatment
of income, and a sample calculation of eligibility and benefits, see Eligibility