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Policy Updates: SNAP Web App changes, Self-Dec form, My Account Page forms

1.  SNAP Web Application “minimum information” policy: DTA recent updated the on-line SNAP web application to comply with USDA requirements requiring states to accept an application with minimal information – the applicant’s name, address and signature - or electronic signature. See DTA Operations Memo 2011-51:  http://www.masslegalservices.org/content/ops-memo-2011-51-snap-virtual-gateway-minimal-data-applications This change is on top of revisions made to the Virtual Gateway six months ago make the ”pre-screening” process optional, provide SSN and opt-out information and add back the “expedited” eligibility questions. 

Some Coalition members have asked if the “minimum information” SNAP application requirement is a good idea. Aside from the federal SNAP law requiring this, the right to file a SNAP application with just your name, address and signature is important for persons who may not have the internet time or detailed information needed to fully complete the SNAP application (libraries and other locations limit on-line access). This policy may also help limited English speaking persons able to get that far in the application (yes, the web application is currently only in English). Equally important, the date a SNAP application is filed protects the start date for benefits if the application is approved. While it is always better to provide as much information as possible, bottom line: DTA must accept a SNAP application – on-line, paper or in-person – if it includes an applicant’s name, address and signature! 

2. SNAP Web Applications – Self-Declaration Form:  A small group of Coalition members have been working to improve the information that’s collected and faxed or emailed to DTA after filing a SNAP applications through the Virtual Gateway. The more client information provided, the better the chances of on getting SNAP applications processed quickly. This is especially true for eligibility factors that can be self-declared, such as dependent care and shelter costs. For clients wanting to give as much information as possible, the SNAP web application does not have any fields to collect information DTA needs to determine expenses, or past income (for expedited), causing SNAP staff to ask for more verifications or written self-declarations. Attached is a sample form in English and Spanish which may be useful in filing SNAP web applications. Be sure to include the phone number the client listed on the web SNAP application as DTA is able to track cases via the phone number. Let MLRI know if you find this form helpful and any changes or additions you would recommend. 

3. My Account Page (MAP) Improvements – client recertification and annual reporting forms now accessible: Virtual Gateway programmers recently confirmed that the SNAP recert and annual reporting (formerly called “semi-annual reporting”) are now available on the My Account Page (MAP). MLRI’s former AmeriCorps, Kelly Love, identified the problem of the missing client documents a few months ago and asked the VG programmers to find a way to make them available to clients who wished to view or print out their SNAP recert or annual reporting forms. 

For clients who have set up a My Account Page, this can be a useful way to get copies of SNAP recertification and Reporting forms issued with in the past 90 days. These forms are pre-populated with the client’s SNAP eligibility information that the client then updates.  If you want to create a  My Account Page go to: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/basic-needs/vg/map/going-to-and-using-my-account-page.html. For more background information the MAP, see DTA Field Operations Memo 2010-06 available at http://www.masslegalservices.org/node/29783

REMINDER:  The next Food SNAP Coalition meeting is Tuesday, November 29th from 10 to Noon at St Francis House in Boston, 39 Boylston Street, 6th Floor.

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