Justice for Veterans Campaign

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1 Justice for Veterans Campaign A Guide for Veterans in Need to Access SNAP Benefits and TANF Benefits in Texas Introduction Veterans returning home from active duty often need assistance from the government as they adjust to their new lives. Accessing these benefits can often be a challenge; this guide is intended to provide information to help veterans utilize two specific benefits programs administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ( HHSC ). 1 The unemployment rate for recent veterans (having served from September 2001 to the present) remains much higher than the national average, at 10.1 percent in September The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP ) and the Texas Temporary Assistance to Needy Families ( TANF ) are programs intended to help people such as these recent veterans get back on their feet. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is relied on by hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide. In Texas alone, approximately one hundred thousand veterans live in SNAP households a resource that a family can use when finances are tight. Families of four earning less than $2,500 a month may be eligible (more details below). TANF in Texas provides financial and medical assistance to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives with whom they are living. To apply for SNAP and TANF benefits access the site and fill out an application following the steps described in this guide. This self-help manual gives an overview of each of these programs and outlines who is eligible to access these benefits. It gives a summary of the manner in which you are actually granted SNAP and TANF benefits in Texas and helps walk you through the application process. 1 This is not an authority on SNAP benefits or TANF benefits in Texas and should not be solely relied upon by veterans or others hoping to access these benefits. More information can be found on the Texas benefits site: 1

2 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP ) helps people with low incomes and resources buy food. SNAP benefits are given to a single person or family who meets the program s requirements. In addition to these benefits, SNAP increases food purchasing power for healthier choices (including the ability to use SNAP benefits in certain farmers markets), provides nutrition education to improve the likelihood that recipients make healthy food choices, and offers employment and training services for SNAP households. The following items WILL BE CONSIDERED in your application for SNAP benefits: 1. Resources households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as bank accounts, or $3,250 in countable resources if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled. a. Certain resources are NOT counted, such as home and lot, TANF benefits, Supplemental Security Income ( SSI ) and most retirement (pension) plans 2. Income households have to meet income tests unless all members are receiving TANF, SSI, or in some places general assistance (see page 4 for more information). 3. Deductions to SNAP benefits include a 20 percent deduction from earned income, legally owed child support payments, and a standard deduction for household's size, among others (see page 4 for more information). 4. Employment Requirements a. Generally, applicants between ages 18 and 50 who do not have any dependent children can only get SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 36-month period if they do not work or participate in a workfare or employment and training program other than a job search. b. With some exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the local benefits office. i. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the SNAP benefits program. 2

3 SNAP: Special Rules for Elderly or Disabled About one-quarter of recent veterans reported service-connected disabilities in 2011, which can impact their ability to provide for their families: households with a veteran with a disability that prevents him or her from working are about twice as likely to lack access to adequate food than households without a disabled member. Most SNAP rules apply to all households, but there are a few special rules for households that contain an elderly (age 60 or older) or disabled member, such as the ability to have greater resources: Generally, a person is considered to be DISABLED for SNAP purposes if he or she: Receives federal disability or blindness payments under the Social Security Act; Receives State disability or blindness payments based on Supplemental Security Income ( SSI ) rules; Receives a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency because of a disability considered permanent under the Social Security Act; Receives an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and is eligible for Medicare or is considered to be disabled based on the SSI rules; Is a Veteran who is totally disabled, permanently housebound, or in need of regular aid and attendance; or Is a surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who is receiving VA benefits and is considered to be permanently disabled. 3

4 SNAP: Net Income Test Households have to meet income tests unless all members are receiving TANF, SSI, or in some places general assistance. Households, except those noted above, that have income OVER the amount listed in the following chart cannot get SNAP benefits: Household Size Gross monthly income* (130 percent of poverty) Net monthly income (100 percent of poverty) Each additional member $1,245 $ 958 1,681 1,293 2,116 1,628 2,552 1,963 2,987 2,298 3,423 2,633 3,858 2,968 4,294 3, *Gross income means a household s total, non-excluded income, before any deductions have been made. Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions. Example of Deductions being used to see if a household qualifies for SNAP: Gross Income Computation Determine household size... Example 4 people with no elderly or disabled members. Add gross monthly income... $1,500 earned income + $550 social security = $2,050 gross income. If gross monthly income is less than the limit for household size, determine net income. $2,050 is less than the $2,498 allowed for a 4- person household, so determine net income. 4

5 Example of a SNAP Benefits Net Income Test Subtract Deductions to Determine Net Income and Apply the Net Income Test Example Subtract 20% earned income $2,050 gross income deduction... $1,500 earned income x 20% = $300. $2,050 - $300 = $1,750 Subtract standard deduction... $1,750 - $160 standard deduction for a household size of 4 = $1590 Subtract dependent care deduction... $1,590 - $361 dependent care = $1,229 Subtract child support deduction... 0 Subtract medical costs over $35 for elderly and disabled... 0 Excess shelter deduction... Determine half of adjusted income... $1229 adjusted income/2 = $614 Determine if shelter costs are more than half of adjusted income... Subtract excess amount, but not more than the limit, from adjusted income... $700 total shelter - $614 (half of income) = $86 excess shelter cost $1,236 - $86 = $1,150 Net monthly income Apply the net income test... Since the net monthly income is less than $1,838 allowed for a household of 4, the household has met the income test. 5

6 Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families The purpose of the Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ( TANF ) is to provide medical and financial assistance to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives with whom they are living. TANF for Families in Texas sets the following general program requirements for adults to be granted access to TANF benefits: 1. Must be a resident of Texas 2. Either pregnant or responsible for a child under 19 years of age 3. A US national, citizen, legal alien, or permanent resident 4. Have low or very low income: a. A family must be below income and resource limits set for the program b. HHSC looks at a family s income and compares it with the amount the family pays for basic needs such as rent, utilities, child care and work-related expenses c. Resources such as cash on hand, money in the bank and type of vehicle(s) are also considered 5. Be either underemployed (working for very low wages), unemployed or about to become unemployed. A parent or relative must sign and follow the Personal Responsibility Agreement in order to receive TANF benefits, whereby the parent or relative agrees to: Train for a job or look for employment if capable (assistance is provided by the Texas Workforce Commission); Cooperate with support requirements; Not voluntarily quit a job; Not abuse alcohol or drugs; Take parenting skills if required Get medical screenings and all required immunizations for all children in the household (adults and children who receive TANF can get health care services through Medicaid); and Make sure that children are attending school. Families who are approved for TANF will receive payments for six months HHSC will send a renewal application to the family before the end of the six months. The total amount of time the parent or relative can receive TANF ranges from 12 to 36 months based on education, work experience, and personal or economic situation. There are no time limits for children. 6

7 Expedited SNAP Benefits Emergency Benefits For access to emergency SNAP benefits, also known as expedited SNAP benefits, visit a HHSC benefits office or call Expedited SNAP benefits are given faster to those in an emergency situation, such as: A family with resources worth $100 or less, and monthly income less than $150 A family with resources and monthly income that are less than the most recent monthly expenses for rent/mortgage and utilities; or A family that includes a migrant or seasonal farm worker who has $100 or less in resources and very little income One-Time TANF One-time TANF provides $1,000 in cash for families in crisis. It can be given only once in a 12-month period to those who qualify To get a one-time TANF payment, families must meet the same income and resource limits required for TANF for Families. Those families who already get TANF payments cannot get a one-time TANF payment. The purpose of one-time TANF is to help with a short-term crisis such as: Loss of job, loss of a home, medical emergency, loss of financial support for a child, not being able to find a job after graduating from college or training school, etc. 7

8 How to Apply for Benefits Whether you want to access SNAP benefits or TANF benefits, you must set up an account with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ( HHSC ) to apply. Online 1. Set up an account through the HHSC to apply for Your Texas Benefits: a. Create a user name and password for future use of this account 2. Apply for a benefits program, filling in the required information on the form. 3. Verify certain items to the HHSC (depends on benefits applying for): a. Identity examples include photo IDs, birth records, paychecks, benefit letters b. Income money you get c. Expenses costs you pay d. Assets things you own or are paying for 4. Face-to-face interview between the applicant and the benefits office will be set up a. This requirement may be waived if you are unable to attend and unable to appoint an authorized representative or household member to go in your place b. If waived, your local benefits office will interview you by telephone or by home visit. In Person or Over the Phone You are not required to apply for SNAP or TANF online. The following are other ways to apply, as well as resources to use for help with your application: 1. Apply in person at the local benefits office or have an authorized representative apply for you. To find your local benefits office: a. Find the local office in the Government section of the telephone book; b. Call the SNAP Hotline (2-1-1); c. Choose the SNAP program and type in your zip code from the following site to find the nearest office: 2. Call or to apply over the phone *Applying in person or over the phone will still require a face-to-face interview between the applicant (or an authorized representative of the applicant) and the benefits office. FOR HELP WITH YOUR APPLICATION find a Community Partner near you: 8

9 How to Access Benefits and Potential Amounts To find out if you ve been approved for either benefits program: 1. Log in to your account at the HHSC benefits page 2. Go to the View my Case section on your account page 3. Click on the Case facts tab to see your Status 4. You have been approved if the Status column says Approved or Sustained Once APPROVED for SNAP food benefits or TANF cash help, you will get a Lone Star card from your local benefits office or by mail: This is a plastic card that is used like a debit card, with the client entering his or her personal identification number (PIN) upon each use; Each month, your approved monthly benefit amount is placed in your card s account For SNAP benefits this amount is to be used to pay for groceries at authorized food stores and the amount you pay is deducted from your account TANF is cash help that is to be used for items of need in addition to food 9

10 SNAP Benefit Amounts SNAP is determined by multiplying the net monthly income of the household by 0.3, and this result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household s allotment: People in Household Maximum Monthly Allotment 1 $ $ $ $ 632 TANF Benefit Amounts TANF for Families, Maximum Payments Child- Family Size Only Cases Household with One Parent or One Caretaker 1 $95 $116 $0 Household with Two Parents or Two Caretakers 5 $ $136 $240 $184 6 $ $ $ 1,137 Each additional person $ $191 $277 $304 4 $228 $333 $341 5 $293 $370 $396 6 $316 $425 $434 Benefit Computation Multiply net income by 30%... (Round up) Subtract 30% of net income from the maximum allotment for the household size... Example $1,143.5 net monthly income x.3 = $ (round up to $344) $668 maximum allotment for 4 - $344 (30% of net income) = $324, SNAP Allotment for a full month 7 $394 $462 $486 8 $433 $525 $524 For each additional $64 $64 $64 person, add: 10

11 Informational Resources The information in this brochure is meant to merely ASSIST veterans in Texas to access SNAP and TANF benefits. For more information on these programs, please see the links below. Texas Health and Human Services Commission Benefits Page To read more about the benefits provided in Texas, as well as the application process and your case, access the following site: Electronic Benefits Transfer Program To learn about the system that delivers SNAP and TANF benefits to Texas recipients through the Lone Star card access the following site: Lone Star Card To learn about the plastic debit card that will provide access to SNAP food benefits and TANF benefits, access the following site: Texas SNAP Food Benefits: Texas TANF Benefits: General Note for Single Parents: If you are single parent getting TANF, your state agency will try to collect child support from the other parent. If you feel that this would be unsafe for you or your children, tell the Social Services agency where you apply. Or talk to a legal services program about exceptions to this rule: (Legal Aid of Northwest Texas: (800) (Lone Star Legal Aid: (800) (Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (888) In a dangerous situation, you may not have to identify the other parent. 11

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