SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need
SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need

Categories: Benefits & Assistance Programs, Community Life, Veterans & Military

A stand of organic vegetables at a USDA Farmers Market

By Guest Blogger Jessica Shahin, Associate Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service

Today, I was thinking about the last entry I wrote for Disability.gov’s blog just about a year ago and considering our accomplishments in 2012 and the opportunities that are ahead for 2013.

The need for food assistance remained high in 2012, with an average of 47 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every month. Program participation increased in response to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy in the New England states. However, overall the program grew at a slower rate and even flattened toward the end of the year. SNAP continues to be the cornerstone of the national hunger safety net by helping those in need put healthy food on the table.

SNAP is there for those who need it, including our veterans and their families. And this is a place where we determined in 2012 to do better – serving veterans, especially our wounded warriors, in their time of need. I recently read a post by Wayne Connell, founder and president of the Invisible Disabilities Association. Something he wrote stuck out to me. Connell says, “What is a disability? In general, the term disability is often used to describe a physical or mental challenge. This could be a bump in life that can be managed, or a mountain that creates serious changes and loss. Either way, this term should not be used to describe a person as weaker or lesser than anyone else!”

His definition of disability struck me as an important reminder that being in need is not an indication of status, but is instead a challenge that many Americans, including many returning troops, must meet every day. Whether a bump or a mountain, SNAP is available to all military families and veterans who meet program eligibility criteria for the period of time they are in need.

There are two income tests for applicants – for most households, income must be below both a gross income limit and net income limit, but for households with someone with a disability or a person age 60 or older, only a net income limit must be met. Additionally, there are specific provisions regarding disability and veterans. If a veteran (or a surviving spouse) is receiving disability payments or payments for aid and attendance for a person with a disability, this person is considered “disabled” for SNAP purposes and does not have to meet the gross income limit.

The disabled veteran or surviving spouse will also have a higher resource limit, as do all households with someone over 60 or someone who has a disability. While these are not new policies, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) saw an opportunity to look at how we reach out to those who sacrificed for our freedom and to consider opportunities that might improve how we communicate.

First, FNS developed a website (http://www.fns.usda.gov/outreach/getinvolved/military.htm) to acknowledge the sacrifice and service of our troops and veterans and to assist those who may be newly eligible for programs as they navigate the network of services and resources.

Second, FNS collaborated with the Veterans Affairs Readjustment Counseling Service, placing “How to Get Food Help” – a food assistance brochure – in 300 readjustment centers and 70 mobile veteran centers located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam. This brochure, and others, can be ordered or downloaded.

Third, we are working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cross-promote benefits and resources available to disabled veterans and to identify new areas of collaboration.

While our data is limited on the number of disabled veterans who are eligible for or are receiving SNAP benefits, we do know that in Fiscal Year 2011 (October 2011 to September 2012), less than one percent of SNAP households received veterans benefits. We need to learn more about the needs and barriers to access that this population faces in order to provide education to disabled veterans and their families, so they can make informed decisions about participating in SNAP.

To that end, the USDA Veterans, Reservists and Military Families Task Force is working to identify key data and research gaps that will inform our understanding of the needs of veterans, reservists and military families. FNS will use the work of this task force to inform and improve our efforts to reach disabled veterans and their families.

You might wonder why this is important. It is important for a variety of reasons, including the benefits and services that SNAP can provide to disabled veterans and their families, such as:

  • Increases food purchasing power for healthier choices – families can supplement their food purchases with SNAP, increasing access to healthy food choices at more than 240,000 retailers across the country…including farmers’ markets where SNAP participants can select from a variety of fresh and nutritious foods while increasing the customer base for local farmers.
  • Provides nutrition education – individuals and families can receive nutrition education to improve the likelihood that they will make healthy food choices within a limited budget based on the MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Information about nutrition can be found at http://snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/click-n-go-education-materials
  • Offers employment and training services – SNAP households are eligible for employment and training services, including assistance with seeking and retaining employment or attending secondary education courses to start a new vocation/career.

In 2013, we should all pause to think what we can do to thank our veterans, including those whose sacrifice results in a disability, and help them meet whatever challenge is before them.  They gave…it is our turn.

For further information about SNAP, please read my blog post from December 2011 at: http://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2011/12/19/a-ripple-effect-the-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/

For More Information:

Jessica Shahin is the senior career official in USDA directly responsible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.

Ms. Shahin has nearly 20 years of experience with SNAP at the state and federal levels. She served on the original Texas Electronic Benefit Transfer Team as director of information management for the Department of Human Services, was executive assistant to the deputy commissioner for client self-support programs, and was later named director of interagency policy for the agency’s Office of Government Relations. In this capacity, she developed an expertise for effective integration of various human service programs in both the policy and management arenas. Beginning in January 2004, Ms. Shahin served as acting associate administrator and deputy associate administrator for the Food Stamp Program/SNAP. She became associate administrator for SNAP in January 2009.

26 Responses to SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need

  1. Milagro E. says:

    Thank you Eric, Thanks for those templates.

  2. Angelique says:

    For those in SC area, you can also contact Hospice Care of SC. They offer various community programs for Veterans.

    http://www.veteranshospicecare.net/

  3. Gulf War Vet says:

    I’m sure SNAP can be a good program. However, in my frustration, I ran across this post. I’m a Gulf War vet with only 60 percent disabling. I have been denied for every government program (including SNAP) that offers assistance to disabled individuals and families because I own a car that they say is worth 5k and I owe child support (keep in mind that I was never late on child support until I became disabled and couldn’t return to work- I requested a reduction a year ago and won’t be in court until mid August). So, after filing bankruptcy and seeking a part-time job with no success, denied assistance by a plethora of federal and state funded programs, I have to tell my adopted 4 year old and wife that we can’t get assistance because we have a car and I owe child support.

  4. micro jobs says:

    It is truly a great and useful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Renee S. says:

    I`m disabled. I don’t get disability because I was in the “cold war” only. My food stamps are $12.00 a month. I could finally apply for HUD housing (that took 3-1/2 years) – but have to move to a HUD property and it can only be for $460.00. Except there are none! No one, even in the “slums”, will take that little. It’s all sick.

  6. Pingback: SNAP Helps Veterans Buy Food. Heard of It? | OurParents

  7. Rita M. says:

    I’m on disability and a diabetic. It’s hard to be on a low carb diet and sugar free. In one state, I was able to receive $200 and when I moved to another state my SNAP went way down to $16, but now I get $76. When I got a 13.00 dollar raise, my food went down and rent went up. Usually after bills are paid, I’ve got about $200 left to pay for meds, non edible items, gas and food. IT IS VERY HARD! If it wasn’t for dollar stores to get cheap products, I couldn’t make it. Cost of meat, fresh fruit and veg. is so HIGH. Even with food giveaways at churches, it still isn’t not enough when your income is way below poverty level – it’s hard.

  8. Barbara A. says:

    I’m on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability, with several serious chronic medical challenges, including mental illnesses, as well as several nutritional allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities, even though I’ve tried several eliminations of this and that, etc. I also have hypoglycemia, am gluten intolerant, etc. I’ve looked for help from books, reputable websites, etc. Nutritionists are no help, they ask me, “What DO you eat?” I am also a vegetarian. My eating disorders are back, again, no surprise. I don’t know what to eat, because I refuse to put GMO ‘crap’ in me, either.

    So, with only that partially said, here in CT. we have a newsletter called “CABHN FEVER” from the CT Alliance for Basic Human Needs, there is also a website. The last issue I received said, “Come Nov. 2013, everyone is going to be receiving less SNAP ‘benefits’.” I rely on this “benefit” because I’m supposed to be on a “therapeutic diet”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Every time I go through Dept. of Social Services re-determination, my primary doctor always needs to include info about this in my medical update letter, along with whatever new medical challenge my body has decided to be in/at.

    The short of the long is, for a long time I, and many people like me, only received 10 dollars of food stamps. How are those of us barely scraping by with nothing, because there is no other choice (not legal), going to “get by on even less than less”? I know I’m not alone. HOW???

  9. Pingback: SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need - Military News | Military News

  10. Douglas M. says:

    SNAP is a wonderful program! I got a $12 a month raise from Social Security & they cut another $7 a month in SNAP benefits, making a total of a $9 cut from SNAP in the last couple of years…it’s rather depressing…

  11. Tommy K. says:

    This is a JOKE!

  12. Tommy K. says:

    My SNAP fell from 107 to 75 to 63 to now 16 per month. My income went up a whopping 2% this year. They keep refactoring how they determine how you receive your benefits, but if you are single with no children you get SCREWED. So is it any wonder we have a “Maury Povich” society out there with so many children and a mother who does not know who the “baby daddy” is.

  13. Eileen C. says:

    How can citizens and consumers get on touch? I live in Florida.

  14. Melinda D. says:

    I DID NOT GET A RASE IN MY FOOD STAMPS.

    • Irene P. says:

      My food stamps for where I live now was lowered by $8.00 because of my 1.5% cost of living raise. If we aren’t people with lots of money, we don’t exist. I would truly love to see the president and the rest of the government officials live on what senior citizens and people with disabilities live on.

  15. Sam R. says:

    On Social Security, can I apply? Age 88, wife 80.

  16. Michael P. says:

    Well, I currently am a disabled vet with a wife who is not eligible for SSDI and due to my income with the VA is unable to collect SSI. Now she has lost a career in Home Health Care due to Traumatic Brain Injury and loosing half her left lung due to Hospital Administrative Error on a nurse’s part that caused my my wife serious life-threatening septic poisoning that in 2006 caused her to slip back into a coma and the medical surgeon was forced to conduct a lobectomy of the left lung. Now we are out $1,200.00 dollars a month. Times are rough as each month food, fuel and everyday living gets harder. Now this hurts any family who dependeds on the extra income in order to survive and pay off debts that were created as we are now paying for medications vs. food in order to keep wife thriving and living as we all strive to eat and survive. How does some one apply for SNAP online? Please advise, if there is a website for New Mexico, as I’m disabled and should not be driving either. Now, as a result from wife losing career we are drowning in debt and unable to supply food and daily household needs.

  17. Kris says:

    I am on disability and in Nebraska I don’t qualify for SNAP benefits because my income exceeds qualification. This just amazes me since after rent and bills, I have less than $300 to spend on food and non-food necessities. I am on a low sodium diet which requires me to buy more expensive products and make my own food. I don’t qualify for insurance (Medicaid) for the same reason. So, I also should be able to pay for my medications and healthcare with this exorbitant amount of money!! Something just isn’t right!

  18. Stanley S. says:

    What degree of disability are we talking about? A veteran with a rating of 10% is not entitled to the same benefits as one with 40%, so to what degree of disability entitles eligibility? This happens in so many areas. Has SNAP solved this problem and what proof is required, if any?

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Stanley,

      According to the SNAP website, “Generally, a person is considered to be disabled for SNAP purposes 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; or
      Receives a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency because of a disability considered permanent under the Social Security Act; or
      Receives an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and is eligible for Medicare or is considered to be disabled based on the SSI rules; or
      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.”

      Further information can be found at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm#special.

      Best,

      The Disability.Blog Team

  19. Eileen C. says:

    A great post, but how can we contact someone, please?

  20. JOSEPH Z. A. says:

    I’M A COMBAT DISABLED VETERAN AND ALL I GOT WAS 16 DOLLARS A MONTH, BUT NOW THEY ARE TAKING IT. THEY SAY THAT I MAKE TOO MUCH INCOME. I THINK THIS IS UNFAIR BECAUSE I CAN’T GET THEM. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO GET WAY TOO MUCH AND THAT MAKES IT HARDER FOR THE ONES THAT NEED TO GET THEM. THAT’S UNFAIR. I DO NOT AGREE WITH THE WAY THEY HANDLE IT FOR PEOPLE. JOSEPH Z. A.