There are TWO different Food Stamp/SNAP policies that affect persons with disabilities who are unable to purchase and prepare their own food. One rule affects persons who live and share food with other persons and who are both disabled and elderly. In this case, to qualify for separate SNAP benefits, the disabled person must age 60 or older, and must live with persons whose gross income is below 165% of the poverty level (this requires the other household members share information about their income). DTA recently issued a series of Hotline Q &As on the first situation – persons who are both elderly and disabled, and living with others with whom they share meals. See October 2010 Hotline: http://www.masslegalservices.org/node/34063
However, there is another option for disabled persons who are entitled to separate SNAP benefits. Persons who are disabled - regardless of their age or the income of others - who get help with the purchasing and preparation of food can also qualify for separate SNAP benefits. The critical difference is whether or not the majority of food is purchased and prepared for the benefit of the disabled person, or intended for the consumption of all household members a majority of the time. Unfortunately, both the October 2010 Hotline guidance and the current SNAP regulations do not highlight this difference. USDA issued guidance in June 2006 addressing this issue, but it has never made its way into revised federal regulations. See http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/separate-household-status-disabled-persons Unfortunately, the DTA Hotline Q&A does not highlight nor address this scenario.
Here is a link to an MLRI fact sheet and snap shot chart explaining the difference in these two rules. We recently received calls from organizations working with families that host severely disabled persons, asking about separate SNAP status. Please let MLRI know of any persons with disabilities denied the right to receive separate SNAP benefits. We will urge DTA to amend its regulations and issue updated policy guidance.
Reminder: NEXT Food SNAP Coalition Meeting, Tuesday, November 30th at St Francis House in Boston.