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What if I am elderly or disabled and live with other people but I cannot buy and cook my own food?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2020

There are two options, even if you are unable to prepare your own meals:
Option 1: If your disability makes you unable to purchase and prepare your own food, you can get SNAP separately from the people you live with – even if they shop and cook food for you.

This option is available as long as the majority of the food you eat is purchased with your income and prepared for you, separate from the people you live with. However, this option is not available if you live with your spouse or parents (if you are under age 22) and they are doing the cooking and shopping for you.

There are many reasons why persons with disabilities may have meals prepared separately. You may have a special diet, eat meals at different times from others, or keep your income and living expenses separate from others. This should not prevent you from getting your own SNAP benefits.
Example: Tom is a 35-year-old disabled adult. He shares an apartment with a roommate, Joe. Because Tom is unable to buy and cook his own food due to his disability, Tom gives Joe money each month to buy his food and Joe prepares it. Sometimes they share a meal, but the majority of the food Tom eats is purchased with his own money and prepared separately. Tom qualifies for his own SNAP household.
Example: Tom is a 15-year-old disabled teenager and gets SSI. He shares an apartment with his dad. His dad uses a portion of his SSI income to buy food for the special diet recommended by his doctor. His dad also makes his food separately because of his strict dietary restrictions. Because Tom is under 22 – even though his dad buys and makes food separately for Tom – Tom does not qualify for his own SNAP. Tom and his dad must get SNAP together.
Option 2: If you are 60 or older and have a permanent disability, you may be able to get SNAP separately for yourself even though you share food bought and cooked with the people you live with. 106 C.M.R. §361.200(B)(4). To qualify for your own SNAP benefits, you must meet three criteria:

  • Be severely disabled,
  • Be age 60 or older, and
  • The gross income of the other people you live with must be less than 165% of the federal poverty level (FPL).

Example 2: Bertha is a 75-year-old disabled woman. She receives $1,000 per month in Social Security benefits. Bertha lives with her 40-year-old daughter Mary, and Mary’s two teenage children. Mary’s gross income is $1,200 per month. Mary purchases and prepares the meals for the entire household, including her mom Bertha. Since Bertha is both disabled and over age 59 years of age, Bertha can qualify for a separate SNAP benefit. That’s because her daughter Mary’s gross income is below 165% of the federal poverty level for a family of three. Mary also has the option to apply for SNAP as a separate SNAP household with her children. The two separate households will receive more in SNAP benefits than if they were in one SNAP household of four persons.

Note: Households that are caring for frail elders or persons with disabilities and receive adult foster care payments can exclude (“opt out”) the foster adult. This excludes the foster care payments as income and can increase the SNAP benefits. 106 C.M.R.§361.240 (F). See question 44.
DTA Online Guide:Home > SNAP > Eligibility Requirements > Elderly/Disabled > Separate Household Status for Elderly Disabled

 

 

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