TN 24 (10-19)

SI 01801.005 Overview of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits

Citation: P.L. 113-128 (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act)

On October 1, 2008, the Food Stamp Program created by the Food Stamp Act of 1977 changed its name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is intended to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s population by raising levels of nutrition among low-income households.

A. Legal requirements regarding SNAP

SSA will assist with completing SNAP applications and accept SNAP applications from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and recipients who live in pure SSI households. For a definition of a “pure SSI household,” see SI 01801.005B.3. in this section.

IMPORTANT: Do not turn away an SSI applicant or recipient living in a pure SSI household or discourage him or her from filing an application for SNAP benefits.

1. Inform all Title II and Title XVI applicants and recipients about SNAP benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to inform all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients about the availability of SNAP benefits.

REMINDER: Informational materials about SNAP, SNAP applications, and the address and telephone number of the local SNAP office must be available to visitors at all times.

2. Manchaca court case

Under the terms of the 1996 Manchaca v. Chater settlement agreement, SSA must advise anyone who resides in a pure SSI household that he or she does not have to go to the local SNAP office to apply or recertify for SNAP benefits.

When you interview a member of a pure SSI household during an initial claim or redetermination, you are required to ask the following question, word-for-word: “May I take your SNAP application today?” Ask this question in a positive manner to invite a “yes” response. If necessary, use the definition in SI 01801.005B.1. in this section to explain SNAP benefits.

B. Definitions of SNAP terms

1. What are SNAP benefits

According to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, the term “SNAP benefits” means the value of supplemental nutrition assistance provided to a household by means of an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) or other means of providing assistance, as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

2. What is a SNAP household

A SNAP household is:

  • an individual who lives alone;

  • an individual who lives with others but usually purchases food and prepares meals for home consumption separately and apart from the others; or

  • a group of individuals who live together and usually purchase food and prepare meals together for home consumption.

NOTE: More than one SNAP household may live under one roof.

3. What is a pure SSI household

A pure SSI household is:

  • an individual who lives alone and is applying for or is receiving SSI; or

  • a household in which everyone has applied for or is receiving SSI, as defined in SI 01801.005B.2.

4. Who is an authorized representative for SNAP purposes

An authorized representative is a person who may act on behalf of the SNAP household by:

  • applying for SNAP benefits;

  • obtaining SNAP benefits; or

  • using SNAP benefits at authorized retail food stores, suppliers, and meal services to purchase food for the household.

a. Who may serve as an authorized representative

An authorized representative can be an adult household or non-household member (other than the head of household or his or her spouse) who is aware of the relevant household circumstances. The head of household (or his or her spouse) can also designate another household or non-household member, who is aware of the relevant household circumstances, to be the representative. However, the head of household (or his or her spouse) must make the designation in writing.

NOTE: The authorized representative who assisted with the SNAP application or with the receipt of benefits may be, but does not have to be, the same person for re-certification purposes.

b. Who cannot be an authorized representative for SNAP purposes

An SSA employee cannot serve as an authorized representative for a household from which he or she takes a SNAP application.

C. USDA, State, and SSA roles and responsibilities

SSA collaborates with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and renews an interagency agreement each fiscal year, pursuant to which USDA agrees to reimburse SSA for performing SNAP-related services, such as:

  • screening for SNAP eligibility or SNAP-application status,

  • assisting applicants with completing initial SNAP applications or applications to recertify for SNAP benefits, and

  • forwarding necessary documents to the SNAP office for processing.

1. USDA and State roles and responsibilities

a. FNS

FNS is the agency within USDA that administers SNAP through partnerships with state agencies. The program is federally funded, but administered by the states. FNS:

  • sets policy;

  • provides guidance and oversight;

  • monitors compliance; and

  • provides reimbursement of allowable administrative costs to SNAP state agencies.

b. State agencies and SNAP offices

State agencies and local SNAP offices:

  • provide SSA with up-to-date SNAP office addresses and telephone numbers and indicate the service area of each office;

  • accept applications for SNAP benefits;

  • certify eligible households; and

  • issue SNAP benefits.

2. SSA roles and responsibilities

The reimbursable agreement between USDA and SSA outlines the roles and responsibilities of our operational components.

The agreement impacts the following operational components and staff:

  • Regional office (RO);

  • Field office (FO);

  • Workload support unit (WSU); and

  • Teleservice Center (TSC).

The ROs and FOs contact the state SNAP agency or local SNAP office to obtain SNAP application forms and informational materials.

IMPORTANT: Every FO must have application forms and literature about SNAP available for the public at all times.

In addition, FOs accept and help applicants complete SNAP applications. For more information, see SI 01801.005C.2.b. in this subsection.

a. FO management responsibilities

FO management must ensure that the address(es) and telephone number(s) of the local SNAP office(s) and an adequate supply of the following are available in each FO:

  • SNAP applications;

  • SNAP posters;

  • SNAP informational materials; and

  • informational materials about other nutrition programs.

REMINDER: Management must prominently display a SNAP poster in the reception area so that the poster is visible to all visitors.

b. FO staff responsibilities

FO staff must:

  • provide information about SNAP to all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients;

  • offer SSI applicants and recipients who live in a pure SSI household the opportunity to apply or recertify for SNAP benefits while in the office or during an initial claim or redetermination interview; and

  • assist SSI applicants and recipients who live in a pure SSI household who are referred by a WSU or TSC with completing a SNAP application.

NOTE: For information about the SNAP screening process, see SI 01801.010.

c. TSC staff responsibilities

TSC staff must:

  • provide information about SNAP to all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients;

  • handle inquiries about SNAP; and

  • refer callers to the FO when appropriate.

For instructions on how TSCs handle SNAP inquiries, see TC 20001.000.

d. WSU staff responsibilities

WSU staff must:

  • provide information about SNAP to all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients;

  • inform SSI applicants and recipients who live in a pure SSI household of their right to apply for SNAP benefits with SSA without going to a SNAP office and their right to apply at a SNAP office if they choose to do so; and

  • assist SSI applicants and recipients who live in a pure SSI household with completing a SNAP application OR refer the individual via Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW) to the servicing FO to assist with the completion of the SNAP application.

D. Factors that affect SNAP eligibility

Generally, a household is not eligible for SNAP benefits if the applicant, beneficiary, or recipient lives in:

  • an institution; or

  • a commercial boarding house.

All applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients have the right to apply for SNAP benefits. If an individual living in an institution or commercial boarding house wishes to apply for SNAP benefits, refer him or her to the local SNAP office to file an application. The SNAP office will make an eligibility determination. See living arrangement factors that may affect SNAP eligibility in SI 01801.040.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0501801005
SI 01801.005 - Overview of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits - 10/17/2019
Batch run: 10/17/2019
Rev:10/17/2019