The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, provides financial help to those in low-income households to cover the cost of food. Most people are eligible to apply for benefits, including senior citizens. In fact, SNAP guidelines make it easier for seniors to get SNAP benefits than for other age groups.
Any individual who meets the eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture can get SNAP assistance if they apply. The USDA does not discriminate on the basis of factors such as religion, race or age. However, there are different regulations for seniors and disabled applicants than for general applicants, as seniors tend to have lower incomes, may not work, and experience increased shelter and medical expenses. The USDA considers anyone 60 or older to be elderly.
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Normally, SNAP applicants have to meet both a gross and net income test. The cutoff for the gross income test is 130 percent of poverty, while the cutoff for the net income test is 100 percent of poverty. Elderly individuals have to meet only the net income test. They are allowed to have up to $3,000 in resources compared to $2,000 in resources for non-elderly applicants. Some funds are exempt from the income calculation, such as retirement funds. In general, if an elderly individual—or any applicant—already is getting Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits, they automatically qualify for SNAP funds. Elderly people also do not have to register for work or accept work offers as other applicants to SNAP do.
In calculating income, elderly people may take some deductions other applicants cannot. The USDA allows the elderly to deduct any medical expenses that exceed $35 a month, as long as they have proof of the expenses. Elderly applicants also can subtract shelter costs that exceed half of their income after all other deductions are calculated. Those living in subsidized housing still can get SNAP benefits if they receive meals at the housing facility.
To apply for benefits as a senior, you or a representative you authorize in writing must apply at your local Department of Health and Human Services office. You or the representative must provide proof of income to the office representative. The application also requires a one-on-one interview. Usually this is done at the office face-to-face, but if you or your representative can't travel to the office, you can request a telephone interview or have an interviewer come to your home. Once your application is complete, representatives will review it and contact you with a decision about your benefit amount.