Thousands Miss Out on Massachusetts SNAP Benefits
In these challenging times, many people who need help to pay for food aren’t getting the assistance they need. At the beginning of this year, over 1.4 million Massachusetts residents were eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) program, commonly called “food stamps.” Unfortunately, more than 600,000 of these eligible residents did not receive SNAP benefits,1 simply because they did not apply for them. SNAP is a federally funded program that provides supplemental funds to help low-income Massachusetts residents purchase food. SNAP is more important than ever in helping to address food insecurity in the difficult economic situation caused by COVID-19.
Eligible residents receive SNAP benefit amounts based on their financial and household situation. Recipients access their benefits using an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card, which functions like a debit card. Funds are put on EBT cards once a month. EBT cards can be used at standard payment terminals in most grocery stores, as well as in many convenience stores and at farmers’ markets. The Hanscom AFB Commissary also accepts SNAP benefits.
Many veterans who qualify for another safety net program called Chapter 115 benefits may also qualify for SNAP benefits, which are crucial to addressing food insecurity among those who have made sacrifices for our country. It is more important than ever for veterans and their family members to have access to the benefits they deserve. The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, partnering with the Department of Veterans Services, has announced a special commitment to ensure that veterans and their family members do not face food insecurity. Many veterans who qualify for Chapter 115 benefits may qualify for SNAP benefits as well—receiving SNAP benefits does not affect your eligibility to receive Chapter 115 benefits.
Most Massachusetts residents who qualify for SNAP have incomes that at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty level—about $2,300 per month for a single-person household,2 before deductions and taxes. There are work requirements for individuals aged 18 to 49 years old who are not disabled and do not have children, but veterans who receive Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability compensation are exempt from SNAP work requirements, regardless of the individual’s disability percentage range (this even includes a 10% disability rating).
The SNAP application only takes about 20 minutes to complete and can be accessed through the Department of Transitional Assistance’s “Connect” website. You can also check your eligibility in advance through this calculator ; this screening, like the Massachusetts Veterans Benefits Calculator, is confidential and you do not need to complete it before applying for benefits.
Many veterans and their family members with limited means likely qualify for Chapter 115 benefits and SNAP benefits, so it is important to understand how receiving Chapter 115 benefits can affect your SNAP eligibility.
If you are receiving Chapter 115 benefits, the effect on your SNAP eligibility will vary depending on whether you receive Chapter 115 benefits in the form of cash payments paid directly to you or as assistance paid directly to a landlord or utility company. Chapter 115 benefits in the form of cash payments to veterans or their family members count as income for the calculation of SNAP benefits, and in some cases, may place an applicant above the threshold for receiving SNAP benefits. Annuity payments are also included in the SNAP benefit calculation.
However, if your Veterans Services Officer (VSO) pays your Chapter 115 benefits directly to your landlord for rent or to a utility company for heating, cooling, or electricity, these benefits do not count as income for the SNAP calculation and will not affect SNAP eligibility. This means that you can get more in monthly SNAP benefits if your VSO makes direct Chapter 115 benefits to your landlord for your rent or direct payments to your utility companies for your utility bills. Local VSO’s have different policies on the payment of Chapter 115 benefits, so if you are interested in directing your cash payments to your landlord or utility company, contact your local VSO.
For more information on how SNAP benefits work, visit the guide from the Department of Transitional Assistance here. To see if you might qualify for Chapter 115 benefits, contact your local VSO or use the Massachusetts Veterans Benefits Calculator.