TN 19 (08-17)

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

CITATIONS: 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 is required to take SNAP applications from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and recipients who live in pure SSI households. This requirement does not apply in a cash-out state. 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 SSI applicants and recipients about SNAP benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to inform all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, or 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 available to customers 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.

NOTE: This obligation does not apply in a cash-out state (see SI 01801.030).

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.

B. Definitions of SNAP terms

1. What are SNAP benefits

The term “SNAP benefits” means the value of supplemental nutrition assistance provided to a household by means of an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 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 and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) collaborate on and renew 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 the necessary documents to the SNAP office to process.

1. USDA’s and the States’ roles and responsibilities

a. The Food and Nutrition Service (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’s roles and responsibilities

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

The operational components and staff affected by this agreement are the:

  • Regional office (RO);

  • Field office (FO);

  • Workload support unit (WSU); and

  • Teleservice center (TSC).

NOTE: When applicable and where SNAP-related workloads overlap, the WSUs follow the same instructions that the FOs and TSCs follow, even if the agreement only references the FO.

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, the 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 is responsible for ensuring that an adequate supply of SNAP applications, posters, and informational materials, as well as informational materials about other nutrition programs, is available in each FO, along with the address(es) and telephone number(s) of the local SNAP offices(s).

REMINDER: Management should also prominently displays a SNAP poster in the reception area so that the poster is visible to all visitors.

b. FO and WSU staff responsibilities

FO staff must:

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

  • offer SSI applicants or 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.

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

c. TSC staff responsibilities

TSC staff provide information about SNAP to all Title II and Title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, or recipients, handle inquiries about SNAP, take SNAP applications, and refer callers to the FO when appropriate.

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

NOTE: TSC staff take SNAP applications only during an SSI application (or redetermination) telephone interview. The TSC should not complete a SNAP application when the applicant completes an SSA-8001-BK as an abbreviated application (ABAP).

D. Factors that may affect SNAP eligibility

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

  • a cash-out state (i.e., California);

  • an institution; or

  • a commercial boarding house.

However, he or she still has the right to apply for SNAP benefits. Therefore, refer the visitor or caller to the local SNAP office to file an application. The SNAP office will make an eligibility determination. For more information about living arrangement factors that may affect SNAP eligibility, see SI 01801.040.

CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS: SNAP benefits may be payable for California residents until SSI or State supplementary payments (SSP) begin or if their SSI benefits are suspended or otherwise interrupted. For more information, see SI 01801.030.


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 - 08/23/2017
Batch run: 08/23/2017
Rev:08/23/2017