|DATE:||January 14, 2005|
|SUBJECT:||The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2005 (PL 108-447)|
Food Stamp Household Income Exclusion Provision
Food and Nutrition Service
On Dec. 8, 2004, the President signed The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2005 (PL 108-447). This law contains a provision which excludes from consideration as income in the Food Stamp Program additional pay received by military personnel as a result of deployment to a combat zone. PL 108-447 reads in pertinent part:
Notwithstanding section 5(d) of the Food Stamp Act of 1977, any additional payment received under chapter 5 of title 37, USC, by a member of the United States Armed forces deployed to a designated combat zone shall be excluded from household income for the duration of the member’s deployment if the additional pay is the result of deployment to or while serving in a combat zone, and it was not received immediately prior to serving in the combat zone.
Under existing policy, the absent member would not be included as a household member for purposes of determining food stamp benefit level. Additionally, only money actually made available to the applicant or participating food stamp household by the absent family member is counted as income for food stamp purposes. Money is generally made available to the applicant or participating food stamp household via a direct deposit of all or a portion of the military person’s pay into a joint checking account. Occasionally such funds are made available to the applicant or participating food stamp household via an “allotment” arrangement made by the military person for a portion of his or her pay to be sent to the applicant or participating food stamp household. More often than not, when an “allotment” arrangement is made, it is the military person who receives the “allotment” with the bulk of his or her pay being sent directly to his or her family. Regardless of the arrangement made by the absent family member for his or her military pay, only that portion of his or her pay to which the applicant or participating food stamp household has access should be counted when determining the household’s income for food stamp purposes.
As a result of the above noted provision of PL 108-447, eligibility workers will now be required to determine if any of the allotment made available to the household by an absent member deployed to a designated combat zone should be excluded when establishing the household’s income for food stamp purposes. See Attachment 1 for a listing of designated combat zones. Chapter 5 of title 37 includes a long listing of pay items which may or may not be the result of deployment to a designated combat zone. Some of the items more clearly relate to deployment to a combat zone than others, for example, incentive pay for hazardous duty and special pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger. Other items are more subject to interpretation such as reenlistment bonuses and special pay for occupational skills. See Attachment 2 for a list of pay items under Chapter 5 of title 37.
Although state agencies may develop their own approach to implementing the requirements of the new law, we have concluded that the most practical way to do this would be to:
- First, the eligibility worker would establish what amount for food stamp purposes of the military person’s pay that was actually available to the household prior to the deployment of the military person to a designated combat zone. If the military person was part of the household for food stamp purposes prior to deployment this amount would be his or her net military pay. If the military person was not part of the household for food stamp purposes prior to the military person’s deployment to a designated combat zone, this amount is the amount the absent military person actually made available to the family prior to deployment to the designated combat zone.
- Next, the eligibility worker would determine the amount of his or her military pay that the absent member deployed in a designated combat zone is making available to his or her family.
- If the amount of his or her military pay that the absent member deployed in a designated combat zone is making available is equal to or less than the amount the household was receiving from the military person prior to deployment to a designated combat zone, all of the allotment would be counted as income to the household for food stamp purposes. Any portion of the amount that exceeds the amount the household was receiving prior to deployment of the military person to a designated combat zone should be excluded when determining the household’s income for food stamp purposes.
In regard to documenting the deployed person’s income and location, our contacts with the military indicate that the deployed person’s military pay record, the Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), is often sent directly to the family back home or can be mailed to the family back home by the deployed person. When the family back home has the LES, it will identify combat pay if it is being received and can be used to establish deployment to a combat zone and the amount of combat pay. Deployment to a combat zone can also be established through orders issued to the military person. Frequently, entire units are deployed and the place of their deployment is a matter of public record. While specific arrangements can vary among the services and from base to base, applicant or participating households have various ways to obtain the pay information of the deployed person. Some have access via the web. Others can seek assistance via the local base financial office.
The subject provision includes no specific implementation time frame. It is, however, effective for fiscal year 2005. State agencies should inform eligibility workers of the income exclusion and implement this revised policy as soon as possible but no later than 60 days from the date of this memorandum. Due to legislative requirement, the policy is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2004. Any household that had an increase in income as a result of the deployment of the service member to a designated combat zone that was counted in their food stamp case as of Oct. 1, 2004, is entitled to restoration of lost benefits. Eligibility workers should make such a determination at the household’s next recertification, unless the household requests a review of its case prior to that time. A household that was denied because excludable income was counted, would also be entitled to a restoration of lost benefits. Any income excluded under the legislation would remain excluded until the household’s next recertification, in the event the exclusion is not renewed for fiscal year 2006.
A 120-day Quality Control variance exclusion applies to this memorandum. The 120-day period would begin sixty days from the date of this memorandum, March 15, 2005 and ends 120 days later, July 13, 2005. States who implement the provision prior to March 15, 2005, will have the 120 day variance exclusion begin on the date the state agency implements and end 120 days later. If the state implements after March 15, 2005, it will only receive the variance exclusion from the date of implementation until the end of the 120 day variance exclusion ending July 13, 2005. Any variance resulting from mistakes in the treatment of income for deployment to a combat zone during the 120 day period will be excluded in the QC review process.
Beginning with Oct. 1, 2004, the effective date of the law, and until the state implements or reaches the required implementation date, cases which have deployment income will not have variances associated with deployment income identified for QC purposes. QC reviewers should be alerted to identify those cases which are entitled to additional benefits and notify the local offices to ensure that the households, including those that were inappropriately denied benefits, receive the appropriate restorations.
Acting Deputy Administrator
Food Stamp Program