Individuals applying for or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have a right to apply for SNAP benefits at the Social Security Administration (SSA). 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.190, 366.926. Federal law requires SSA to take your SNAP application and sent to DTA. SSA is supposed to do this if every member of your household receives or is applying for SSI. 7 U.S.C. § 2020(I)(1). Federal law also requires SSA offices to offer a SNAP application form to Social Security (RSDI) recipients. 7 U.S.C. § 2020(J).
DTA has a short SNAP application form that SSA offices should give to SSI and RSDI clients. DTA will then contact you to get additional information if proofs are missing or information is unclear. 106 C.M.R.§ 361.190.
While the federal law requires SSA to provide SNAP application assistance to SSI applicants and recipients, SSA District Offices do not do this consistently. You can remind SSA District Office of their obligations by citing the federal rules, and you can also tell your local Congress member when SSA refuses to help you.
If you need emergency SNAP benefits – especially if you are just applying for SSI or Social Security – it may be faster to go to the local DTA office or apply on-line. See Can I get emergency SNAP benefits?.
Bay State CAP for SSI Applicants and Recipients
Massachusetts has a special program where certain SSI applicants and recipients can automatically qualify for SNAP when they contact the Social Security office. This is called “Bay State CAP” which is a “consolidated application project” between DTA and SSA.
If you meet the following four criteria, you may be able to qualify for Bay State CAP when you are applying or recertifying for SSI:
- you are an SSI applicant likely to be approved for SSI within 30 days, or you are an SSI recipient and SSA is doing a review (redetermination) of your SSI benefits;
- you are 18 or older and do not live with a spouse,
- you live alone, or live with others and you purchase and prepare your own food separate from others, and
- the SSI benefits you receive are federally-funded (if you get only a small amount of SSI on top of Social Security or other income, you are likely getting state-funded SSI supplement)
When you apply for SSI – or when your SSI benefits are redetermined by SSA – the SSA Claims Representative is supposed to ask if you want SNAP benefits. If you do, they should ask how much you pay in shelter costs and if you purchase and prepare meals separately from others you live with. SSA should then send this information to DTA electronically.
If you are Bay State CAP eligible, you do not have to file a separate SNAP application with DTA, be interviewed by DTA, or provide any proofs. You only have to report changes (if you move or get a job) to SSA, not DTA. The SNAP benefits are certified for 36 months.
The rules for Bay State CAP are found at: 106 C.M.R. §366.910
- Bay State CAP recipients often receive the same benefit amount as regular SNAP benefits. However, you may qualify for higher SNAP benefits if you have high shelter costs or out-of-pocket medical expenses. You have a right to switch from Bay State CAP to regular SNAP any time.
- If SSA says your SSI application will take more than 30 days to process, (it often takes a while unless you are elderly) , and it may be faster to apply for regular SNAP benefits by either filing an on-line application, going to DTA in-person, or asking SSA to help you fill out a paper SNAP application.
SSA Policy Guidance on SNAP Applications:
DTA Policy Guidance on SSA Obligations and Bay State CAP
- SSI recipients who receive only the state-funded SSI supplement vs. federal SSI do not qualify for Bay State CAP. Ops Memo 2012-23 (May 18, 2012)
- Increase in Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) to full heating/cooling SUA for Bay State CAP cases. F.O. Memo 2010-59 (Dec. 30, 2010)
- Initial roll-out of Bay State CAP, worker instructions, client brochure and notices, one-page application form for regular SNAP application. F.O. Memo 2005-4 (Jan. 14, 2005) and F.O. Memo 2005-33 (Aug. 2, 2005)
- Bay State CAP outreach efforts in 2005 to SSI recipients not on food stamps. F.O. Memo 2005-18 (April 15, 2005), F.O. Memo 2005-50 (Oct. 3, 2005), and F.O. Memo 2005-53 (Nov. 2, 2005)
- Bay State CAP recertification process. F.O. Memo 2006-8 (Jan.19, 2006)
- No closure of Bay State CAP case if SSI termination is less than 30 days, DTA reinstatement procedures. F.O. Memo 2007-23 (March 30, 2007)
- SSA detailed guidance to SSA District Offices regarding Bay State CAP. SSI Policy Operations Manual, SI BOS01801.302.
Produced by Patricia Baker, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, Rochelle Hahn and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Last updated January 2013