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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP Special Rules for the Elderly or Disabled

Last Published: 10/01/2018

To get SNAP benefits, you must apply in the State in which you currently live and you must meet certain requirements, including resource and income limits, which are described on this page. Most SNAP eligibility rules apply to all households, but there are some special rules for households with elderly or disabled members that are described on this page. If your household does not have elderly or disabled members, you should read the general SNAP eligibility rules. SNAP income and resource limits are updated annually. The information on this page is for October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019.

Who is elderly?

In SNAP, you are elderly if you are 60 years or older.

Who is disabled?

In SNAP, you are disabled if you meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • You receive Federal disability or blindness payments under the Social Security Act, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability or blindness payments. OR
  • You receive State disability or blindness payments based on SSI rules. OR
  • You receive a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency because of a permanent disability. OR
  • You receive an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and are eligible for Medicare or are considered disabled under SSI. OR
  • You are a veteran who is totally disabled, permanently homebound, or in need of regular aid and attendance. OR
  • You are the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who is receiving VA benefits and is considered permanently disabled.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for SNAP?

Your household must meet certain requirements to be eligible for SNAP and receive benefits. If your State agency determines that you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you will receive benefits back to the date you submitted your application.

To see if you might be eligible for SNAP benefits, visit our pre-screening tool

Note: The FNS SNAP pre-screening eligibility tool is an interactive site with general information about eligibility requirements and how benefits are determined. Sharing your information in that form does not mean you filed an application for benefits. You will still need to submit an application through your State SNAP agency or local SNAP office.

How do I apply for SNAP?

You must apply for SNAP in the State where you currently live. Since each State has a different application form and process, a member of your household must contact your State agency directly to apply.

You can contact your State agency by visiting your local SNAP office, visiting your State agency’s website, or calling your State’s toll-free SNAP Information hotline. Some States have online applications that can be completed from the State agency website. 

Where can I get my State information?

If you are unable to go to your local SNAP office or do not have access to the internet, you may have another person act as an authorized representative by applying and being interviewed on your behalf. You must designate the authorized representative in writing.

Note: Please contact your SNAP State agency directly to apply and to request information about the status of your application. FNS does not process applications or have access to case information.

What happens when I apply for SNAP?

In most cases, once you submit your application, your State agency or local SNAP office will process it and send you a notice telling you whether or not you are eligible for benefits within 30 days. 

During the 30 days, you will need to complete an eligibility interview and give proof (verification) of the information you provided. The interview is typically completed over the telephone or in-person. If you are found eligible, you will receive benefits based on the date you submitted your application.

You may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits within 7 days of your application date if you meet additional requirements.  For example, if your household has less than $100 in liquid resources and $150 in monthly gross income, or if your household’s combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than what you pay each month for rent or mortgage and utilities expenses. Contact your State agency for additional details.

How do I receive SNAP benefits?

If you are found eligible, you will receive SNAP benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card. Benefits are automatically loaded into your account each month. You can use your EBT card to buy groceries at authorized food stores and retailers. 

How long will I receive SNAP?

If you are found eligible, you will receive a notice that tells you how long you will receive SNAP benefits for; this is called your certification period. Before your certification period ends, you will receive another notice that says you must recertify to continue receiving benefits. Your local SNAP office will provide you with information about how to recertify.

Who is in a SNAP household?

Everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares meals together is grouped together as one SNAP household.

Some people who live together, such as spouses and most children under age 22, are included in the same SNAP household, even if they purchase and prepare meals separately.

If a person is 60 years of age or older and unable to purchase and prepare meals separately because of a permanent disability, the person and the person's spouse may be a separate SNAP household if the others they live with do not have very much income (no more than 165 percent of the poverty level).

Normally you are not eligible for SNAP benefits if an institution gives you most of your 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 if 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 if the group home prepares their meals for them.

What resources can I have (and still get SNAP benefits)?

Resources

Households may have $2,250 in countable resources (such as cash or money in a bank account) or $3,500 in countable resources if at least one member of the household is age 60 or older, or is disabled.

However, certain resources are NOT counted when determining eligibility for SNAP:

  • A home and lot;
  • Resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF; also known as welfare); and
  • Most retirement and pension plans (withdrawals from these accounts may count as either income or resources depending on how often they occur).

Vehicles

Vehicles count as a resource for SNAP purposes. States determine how vehicles may count toward household resources.

Licensed vehicles are NOT counted if they are:

  • Used for income-producing purposes (e.g., taxi, truck or delivery vehicle);
  • Annually producing income consistent with their fair market value;
  • Needed for long distance travel for work (other than daily commute);
  • Used as the home;
  • Needed to transport a physically disabled household member;
  • Needed to carry most of the household's fuel or water; or
  • If the sale of the vehicle would result in less than $1500.

For non-excluded licensed vehicles, the fair market value over $4,650 counts as a resource.

Licensed vehicles are also subject to an equity test, which is the fair market value less any amount owed on the vehicle.  The following vehicles are excluded from the equity test:

  • One vehicle per adult household member; and
  • Any other vehicle used by a household member under 18 to drive to work, school, job training, or to look for work.

For vehicles with both a fair market value over $4,650 and an equity value, the greater of the two amounts is counted as a resource.

Additionally, the equity value of unlicensed vehicles generally counts as a resource, with some exceptions.

What are the SNAP income limits?

Most SNAP households must meet both the gross and net income limits or they are not eligible for SNAP and cannot receive benefits. However, a household with an elderly or disabled person only has to meet the net income test. 

Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions. Gross income means a household's total, non-excluded income, before any deductions have been made. Under Federal law, all income is counted to determine eligibility for SNAP unless it is explicitly excluded.  For SNAP purposes, “income” includes both earned income such as wages and unearned income such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and veterans, disability, and death benefits. Because veterans’ and disability benefits are not explicitly excluded from income, they are counted when determining a household’s eligibility for SNAP. 

If all members of your household are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SSI, or in some places other general assistance, your household may be deemed “categorically eligible” for SNAP because you have already been determined eligible for another means-tested program.

The information provided in the table below applies to households in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia that apply for SNAP between October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019

Table 1: SNAP Income Eligibility Limits - October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019

Household Size

Gross monthly income

(130 percent of poverty)

Net monthly income

(100 percent of poverty; test for SNAP households with elderly and disabled members)

1

$1,316

$ 1,012

2

$1,784

$1,372

3

$2,252

$1,732

4

$2,720

$2,092

5

$3,188

$2,452

6

$3,656

$2,812

7

$4,124

$3,172

8

$4,592

$3,532

Each additional member

+$468

+$360

* SNAP gross and net income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

What deductions are allowed in SNAP?

The following deductions are allowed for SNAP:

  • A 20-percent deduction from earned income.
  • A standard deduction of $164 for household sizes of 1 to 3 people and $174 for a household size of 4 (higher for some larger households and for households in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam).
  • A dependent care deduction when needed for work, training, or education.
  • Medical expenses for elderly or disabled members that are more than $35 for the month if they are not paid by insurance or someone else. The excess medical expenses deduction is described below.
  • In some States, legally owed child support payments.
  • In some States, a standard shelter deduction for homeless households of $143.
  • Excess shelter costs as described below.

SNAP Excess Medical Expenses 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.

Note: Proof of medical expenses and insurance payments is required.

SNAP Excess Shelter Costs 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:

  • Fuel to heat and cook with.
  • Electricity.
  • Water.
  • The basic fee for one telephone.
  • Rent or mortgage payments and interest.
  • Taxes on the home.

Some States allow a set amount for utility costs instead of actual costs.

The amount of the shelter deduction is capped at (or limited to) $552 unless one person in the household is elderly or disabled. The limit is higher in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam. For a household with an elderly or disabled member all shelter costs over half of the household's income may be deducted.  

Table 2: How to Calculate SNAP Net Income for Elderly/Disabled Household

Elderly/Disabled Household  Income Computation

Example

Determine household size.....

2 people who are elderly or disabled.

Add gross monthly income...

$1,000 Social Security + $200 pension = $1,200 gross income.

Subtract 20% earned income deduction

$0 earned income

Subtract standard deduction.........

$1,200 - $164 standard deduction for a 2-person household = $1,036

Subtract dependent care deduction.....

0

Subtract child support deduction......

0

Subtract medical costs over $35 for elderly and disabled.........

$1,036 - $300 excess medical expenses = $736

Excess shelter deduction........

 

Determine half of adjusted income.......

$740 adjusted income/2 = $368

Determine if shelter costs are more than half of adjusted income........

$600 total shelter - $368 (half of income) = $232 excess shelter cost

Subtract excess amount, but not more than the limit, from adjusted income........

$740 - $232 = $508 net monthly income

Apply the net income test....

Since the net monthly income is less than $1,372 allowed for 2-person household, the household has met the income test.

How much could I receive in SNAP benefits?

The total amount of SNAP benefits your household gets each month is called an allotment.

Because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their own resources on food, your allotment is calculated by multiplying your household’s net monthly income by 0.3, and subtracting the result from the maximum monthly allotment for your household size. 

Table 3: SNAP Maximum Monthly Allotment Based on Household Size

People in Household

Maximum Monthly Allotment

1

$192

2

$353

3

$505

4

$642

5

$762

6

$914

7

$1,011

8

$1,155

Each additional person

+$144

Note: The allotments described here are for households in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia. The allotments are different in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Table 4: Example of SNAP Benefit Calculation

Benefit Computation

Example

Multiply net income by 30%...  (Round up)

$508 net monthly income  x 0.3 = $152

Subtract 30% of net income from the maximum allotment for the household size...

$353 maximum allotment for 2-person household - $152 (30% of net income) = $201, SNAP Allotment for a full month

If you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you will receive benefits back to the date you submitted your application.

What are the SNAP work requirements?

Households that consist entirely of elderly or disabled members are not subject to work requirements, however most other households must meet work requirements to be eligible for SNAP. 

Are non-citizens eligible for SNAP?

SNAP eligibility has never been extended to undocumented non-citizens. Specific requirements for non-citizens who may be eligible have changed substantially over the years and become more complicated in certain areas. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 limits eligibility for SNAP benefits to U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens.

Generally, to qualify for SNAP, non-citizens must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have lived in the United States for at least 5 years.
  • Be receiving disability-related assistance or benefits.
  • Be children under 18. 

Additionally, these individuals must also satisfy other SNAP eligibility requirements such as income and resource limits in order to qualify for benefits.

If certain members of a household are ineligible for SNAP, State agencies must still determine eligibility for SNAP for any remaining household members who are seeking assistance. 

For additional information see:  SNAP Policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility and SNAP Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility.

What if I disagree with a decision made on my SNAP case?

If you disagree with a decision in your case, you may request a fair hearing with an official who is required by law to review the facts of your case in a fair and objective manner.

Note: You must request a fair hearing within 90 days of the day your local SNAP office made the decision in your case that you disagree with. 

You can request a fair hearing over the phone, in writing, or in person at the local SNAP office. 

Although a fair hearing cannot change the laws or regulations governing SNAP, it can ensure that decisions on your case have been made correctly.

Nondiscrimination in SNAP

SNAP benefits are available to all eligible households regardless of race, sex, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs.

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.

Where can I get additional information about SNAP?

For additional information about SNAP in your State, to file an application for SNAP benefits, or to get information about your SNAP case, you must contact your local SNAP office. Where Can I Get My State Information?