Skip to main content
For Immediate Help: 800-544-9144
Veterans Law

VA Disability and SNAP Benefits

Michael Lostritto

March 25, 2024

Updated: June 20, 2024

VA Disability and SNAP Benefits

According to the Food Research & Action Center, food insecurity affects roughly 7.5% of all veterans.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as the Food Stamps Program, helps low-income families by offering funds to purchase food. These benefits help ensure that people have access to a nutritious diet despite financial constraints.

However, it is a needs-based program with strict income requirements. How do VA disability benefits impact SNAP eligibility?

In this article, our team of veterans advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick analyze SNAP and how it interacts with VA benefits.

What Are SNAP Benefits?

SNAP benefits are announced in August each year and then go into effect from October 1 to September 30. The benefits are based on the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), similar to VA disability benefits. The 2024 COLA adjustment increased SNAP benefits by 3.2 percent from 2023.

Veterans can receive these benefits as monthly funds on an EBT card that can be used to buy food.

Who Is Eligible for SNAP Benefits?

To be eligible for SNAP benefits, there are specific requirements and income limits that are set and managed by the state the person applying lives in. There are also specific rules set for households with elderly or disabled members.

The SNAP benefits program is a need-based program. In addition to resource and income limits, applicants must be a U.S. citizen to qualify and may need to meet certain employment requirements.

To find the specific requirements for your state, you can visit the SNAP State Directory of Resources.

Do VA Benefits Impact SNAP Eligibility?

Generally, VA disability benefits are counted as income when determining eligibility for SNAP benefits.

In most states, VA disability benefits are considered as unearned income for SNAP purposes. Unearned income typically includes income from sources such as pension, Social Security, and disability benefits. When calculating SNAP eligibility and benefit amounts, your total income, including VA disability benefits will be taken into account.

The impact of VA disability benefits on your SNAP eligibility and benefit amount will depend on your total income, household size, and other factors. If your income, including VA disability benefits, falls below a certain threshold set by your state, you may be eligible for SNAP benefits. If your income exceeds the threshold, you may still qualify for a reduced benefit amount. Some states may exclude a portion of VA disability benefits when determining income for SNAP eligibility.

It’s important to note that the rules and regulations regarding SNAP benefits can change over time and can vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s crucial for veterans receiving VA disability benefits who are interested in applying for or receiving SNAP benefits to check with their local SNAP office or state’s Department of Human Services to understand how VA disability benefits may affect their eligibility and benefit amounts.

SNAP Income Limits for Disabled Veterans

Note that there are special SNAP income limits for older or disabled individuals. If you are a veteran over the age of 60 or have a disability, your household has specific eligibility requirements:

  1. Your net monthly income must be at or below 100% of the federal poverty line.
  2. Your assets should not exceed $4,250.

Net income is calculated by subtracting allowable deductions from your gross income.

Assets, also known as “countable resources,” include items like cash, funds in a bank account, and certain vehicles. In 2023, a two-member household with a net monthly income of $1,643 (equal to 100% of the poverty line) could potentially qualify for SNAP.

Combat veterans should be aware that combat pay, hostile fire pay, or imminent danger pay do not count as income when applying for SNAP.

Various allowable deductions, such as those for excess medical expenses, can assist you in meeting the net income requirement. Additionally, certain assets, like your primary residence, typically do not count towards the $4,250 limit.

If every member of your household receives SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, you might be eligible for SNAP without needing to meet the net income test; this is known as “categorical” eligibility.

Who Is Considered Disabled for SNAP Eligibility Purposes?

In SNAP, an individual is considered disabled if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • They receive federal disability or blindness payments under the Social Security Act, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability or blindness payments.
  • They receive state disability or blindness payments that adhere to SSI rules.
  • They receive a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency due to a permanent disability.
  • They receive an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and meet the criteria for Medicare eligibility or are classified as disabled under SSI.
  • They are a veteran who is completely disabled, permanently homebound, or requires regular aid and attendance.
  • They are the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who is receiving VA benefits and has been determined to be permanently disabled.

SNAP Benefits vs. Military Basic Needs Allowance

The Department of Defense (DOD) has introduced a program called the Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) for service members with household incomes below a specific threshold. While veterans do not receive BNA, it can be useful to understand the differences, especially if a veteran received BNA and is now transitioning out of service.

BNA requires that the gross household income be below 150% of the poverty level. The program aims to provide a monthly benefit that boosts the household income to reach 150% of the poverty threshold.

While both BNA and SNAP provide assistance to individuals or families in need, there are notable distinctions:

  • Recipients are issued a debit card solely for purchasing food items, with the government replenishing the card’s balance each month.
  • DOD adds the BNA directly to military members’ paychecks, and these funds are not subject to SNAP’s purchase limitations.

Is It Possible to Receive SNAP and BNA Simultaneously?

No, you cannot receive SNAP benefits concurrently with BNA. Once you start receiving BNA benefits, your eligibility for SNAP will terminate. This is because military pay and allowances, including BNA income, are considered part of your household income, and you are required to report BNA income to the SNAP office.

Additionally, receiving BNA benefits may have implications for your eligibility in other government programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). It may also impact your qualifications for school lunch programs, earned income tax credits, and various other benefits.

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

If you believe you may be eligible, it’s essential to know how to apply for SNAP benefits. The application process usually involves providing information about your income, expenses, and household composition. You can apply online, by phone, or in person at your state’s local SNAP office.

Conclusion

These benefits can be a lifeline for veterans facing financial challenges, including those receiving VA disability benefits. Understanding how these two programs interact and the rules in your state can help you access the support you need to ensure your family’s nutritional needs are met.

If you believe that you should qualify for SNAP based on your VA rating, but are not yet rated high enough, we may be able to help.

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is a public interest law firm and the largest veterans law firm in the United States. We have been fighting for veterans since 1999 with legal and political advocacy, free information, and claims assistance. If you need to appeal your VA disability rating decision, our attorneys and advocates may be able to help. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.

About the Author

Michael joined CCK in September of 2016 as an Attorney, was named Supervising Attorney in 2021, and now serves as a Managing Attorney. His practice focuses on the representation of disabled veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Michael