According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), more than 70 million Americans receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both. The vast majority are people aged 65 and over who receive only Social Security retirement benefits.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the country’s largest anti-hunger initiative. Formerly known as Food Stamps, the program supports nearly 42 million beneficiaries who rely on SNAP to purchase groceries and other foods.
Both programs help tens of millions of people avoid poverty and food insecurity, but are the two mutually exclusive? Can Social Security recipients also receive food stamp benefits?
Despite much misinformation and an unfortunate number of eligible people who don’t, the answer is yes – food stamps can go to seniors and others on Social Security.
SNAP and Social Security
Not only can older Americans receive SNAP benefits while collecting Social Security, but there are special rules for those 60 and older that make it easier to qualify for food stamps. For example, a standard household can have up to $2,500 in bookkeeping resources — things like cash or cash in the bank — and still qualify for SNAP.
If a household includes a person with a disability or an elderly person, however, the countable resource limit increases to $3,750.
SNAP treats Social Security like any other income
The USDA uses income limits based on household size to determine SNAP eligibility. Most applicants must meet the limits of both gross income – which is a household’s total income before deductions – and net income, which is gross income minus deductions.
The gross monthly income limit is 130% poverty: Between $1,396 for a one-person household and $4,839 for an eight-person household, plus $492 for each additional member.
The net monthly income limit is 100% poverty: Between $1,074 for a one-person household and $3,722 for an eight-person household, plus $379 for each additional member.
To determine SNAP eligibility, the USDA counts income from all sources, including work income before payroll taxes and unearned income like child support, cash assistance, and Social Security. .
Therefore, you can collect Social Security and SNAP benefits simultaneously, as long as the payment for the former does not exceed your income limits for the latter.
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What about SSIs?
Supplementary Security Income (SSI) is a branch of social security aimed at the most vulnerable people, both disabled and part of a low-income household. To qualify, you must earn $1,350 per month or less – $2,260 for the blind.
Again, receiving SSI does not disqualify you, but your benefits are considered income when applying for SNAP. You are free to collect food stamps as long as your SSI distributions do not cause you to exceed USDA’s SNAP income limits.
The SSA site explicitly states, “If you receive SSI, you may be eligible to receive SNAP assistance to purchase food,” and that SSA provides SNAP requests at local offices and may even assist eligible households. to fill them. Even so, the SSA states, “Many people potentially eligible for SSI benefits do not know how receiving SSI affects their benefits or payments from other government and state programs.”
SNAP is one such program.
Millions of eligible seniors are not collecting SNAP benefits
According to a 2021 report from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), three out of five seniors eligible for SNAP — about five million people — are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.
It’s unclear if some percentage of those five million people never apply for SNAP because they assume they’re not eligible while collecting Social Security, but the statistics are stark. Less than half of people age 60 and older do not receive SNAP benefits even though they qualify or receive less than they could receive.
The dual eligibility myth isn’t the only piece of misinformation keeping people from applying. According to the NCOA, many people think older Americans can only get $16 a month in food stamps, but that’s only the minimum for an eligible senior: The average benefit is over $100.
Finally, only a small percentage of seniors use the medical expense deduction, which allows seniors who spend more than $35 per month on medical expenses to deduct those expenses from their gross income when applying for SNAP.
So, yes, you can collect Social Security and SNAP at the same time — and if you’re eligible, you absolutely should.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Can you collect Social Security and qualify for food stamps?