You have some core rights when it comes to verifications:
- DTA must accept any documents that reasonably prove your eligibility. 106 C.M.R. § 361.640.
- DTA cannot demand a specific document such as a birth certificate for identity when the SNAP rules allow for other options.
- If verification depends on the cooperation of a third party – such as getting wage information from an employer – DTA cannot deny your SNAP if the third party does not cooperate.
- DTA must accept the “best evidence available” – which could be a self-declaration.
- DTA should not require you to “prove a negative,” such as the address of an absent parent not living with you.
- In general, DTA should not ask for additional proofs unless the information or documents you already gave them is “questionable.”
“Questionable” means the information you gave DTA is inconsistent with information you already shared with them or information they know about (e.g. through database checks). 106 C.M.R. § 361.620. The DTA worker must review the individual circumstances of each household before determining information is questionable.
If you are asked to prove something that you cannot, or that seems unreasonable, contact a legal advocate. See Appendix E.
If DTA does not accept the proofs you give them, the DTA worker must write down in your case record the reasons for rejecting that proof. 106 C.M.R. § 361.660. If you think you have given DTA enough proof, you can ask to speak to a Supervisor to review, or contact a legal advocate.
Example 2: Sandy is 55 and works as a personal care attendant. She applied for SNAP and during her interview explained that she divorced her husband six months ago, but that she still gets some of his mail at her house. The ex-husband applied for his own SNAP with a different address. A Registry of Motor Vehicle check shows that her ex-husband still registers his car at her address. Sandy tells DTA he does not live with her. This is not questionable - it does not contradict what she said during her interview and is supported by her ex-husband applying for SNAP with proof of a different address. Sandy has no control over her husband, does not own the car and should not be required to prove where her ex lives.
What if DTA suspects I have living expenses that exceed my income?
DTA has a policy to ask for more information when they think a SNAP household is “suspected of living above means” (called their “SLAM” policy). If DTA thinks your income is too low to meet your rent or other expenses, a DTA worker may ask you questions about how you are getting by. DTA may also send you a Verifications Checklist asking for more information.
Many low income households have living expenses that exceed their income and are often borrowing from family members or friends, are running up credit cards or often running up debt that may trigger a utility shut off or eviction.
While money paid by a spouse or parent of a minor child must be reported and is countable income, cash contributions or loans from friends or relatives generally do not count. See What incone is not counted?. You should be prepared to explain to DTA how you are getting by. It is very important that you answer DTA’s questions truthfully.
Example 1: Fiona owes $1,000 per month in rent but only makes $800/month since she lost one of her jobs. Fiona explains that her landlord is allowing her to pay half her rent until she is fully employed again.
Example 2: Clara has been unemployed for a year due to a car accident and has no income. Her share of the rent is $500 per month. Clara explains during her SNAP application interview that she’s been borrowing money from friends after running up debt on her credit card.
In both examples the household gave a reasonable explanation. It does not appear “questionable,” and DTA should not require additional verifications. If DTA asks you to verify that your rent payments are past due, or how you are getting by, call Legal Services.