Can I apply for SNAP benefits at the local Social Security office?

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 SNAP law requires SSA to take your SNAP application and send it 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 declines 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 SNAP program where certain SSI applicants and recipients can automatically apply for SNAP when they contact their Social Security office. This is called “Bay State CAP,” a “consolidated application project” for SSI recipients seeking SNAP. 

If you qualify for SNAP under the Bay State CAP pilot, you don’t have to file a SNAP application with DTA, have a DTA interview or provide any proofs. You only have to report changes (e.g. if you move or get other income) to SSA. Your SNAP benefits are certified for 36 months.
To qualify for Bay State CAP through the SSA as an SSI applicant or recipient, you must meet all of the following four (4) criteria:

  • 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 re-determined by SSA – the SSA Claims Representative is supposed to ask if you want SNAP benefits. If you do, they should ask two questions: first, if you purchase and prepare meals separately from others you live with and second, how much you pay in rent or home ownership costs. SSA should then send this information to DTA electronically.

The rules for Bay State CAP are found at: 106 C.M.R. §366.910.

Advocacy Reminders

  • Bay State CAP recipients often receive the same benefit amount as regular SNAP benefits. However, you may wish to apply for regular SNAP benefits to get a higher amount if you have shelter costs above $450/month, if you pay child support to a child outside the home, or if you have unreimbursed 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) 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:
SSA Policy Guidance on SNAP Applications:
  • The Social Security Administration provides detailed instructions to SSA Claims Representatives on their obligation to offer to take SNAP/food stamp applications for SSI recipients. Policy Operations Manual: SSI 01801.005.
DTA Policy Guidance on SSA Obligations and Bay State CAP

Hide Additional Policy Guidance

Produced by Patricia Baker, Victoria Negus, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, and Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated January 2014
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