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If I am a legal immigrant adult, how do I prove disability so I do not have to wait five years?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

Under the SNAP rules, you are considered disabled only if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or social security disability benefits (sometimes called “RSDI”),
  • EAEDC cash assistance benefits, based on a severe disability,
  • certain disability retirement pensions, if you have a severe disability,
  • railroad retirement disability benefits,
  • veteran’s disability benefits, depending on severity of disability, or veteran’s benefits for a spouse or children,
  • MassHealth (Medicaid) for persons with disabilities, or
  • TAFDC benefits where you are exempt from the TAFDC time limits and work rules based on a severe disability.

Cash Assistance Disability Determinations

If you receive EAEDC or TAFDC cash assistance, in order to meet the SNAP disability criteria you must meet the SSI standards of disability. DTA uses the Disability Evaluation Service (DES) at UMass Medical School. When DES reviews disabilities, they code recipients based on the severity of disability.  Individuals that meet SSI standards are given the following codes on the DES Decision Tracking Form sent to DTA: codes 100, 110, 120, or 130 on their “Determination Tracking Form.” 

Be sure to ask DTA what the DES decision code is on your case if it would make a difference in your qualifying for SNAP or in the SNAP math.

MassHealth Disability Determinations

MassHealth does not regularly conduct disability evaluations unless required for a higher level of health care coverage.  When MassHealth needs a disability evaluation, depending on the coverage, they use DES disability standards to upgrade persons from MassCare Plus to MassHealth Standard and for CommonHealth. 130 C.M.R. § 505.002(F), § 519.007(B) and (C).

MassHealth recipients often do not need a disability determination because the scope of health benefits is adequate to meet their needs. Individuals tend to apply for a disability determination if their income exceeds 133% FPL and they need more coverage under CommonHealth, or if they need long term nursing care services or other services not included in CarePlus.

Even if you do not need more health coverage, you can still seek a disability determination. You may wish to do this if you are severely disabled, do not receive SSI or DTA cash assistance, and the DES disability determination allow you to claim your out-of-pocket medical expenses and actual shelter costs that can boost your SNAP benefit. 

To get a disability determination, fill out the 10 page MassHealth Adult Disability Supplement, and each of the Medical Records Release Forms.  Send this full document to: 

Disability Evaluation Services
UMASS Medical DES
P.O. Box 2796
Worcester, MA 01613-2796

Visit MassHealth Adult Disability Supplement to download copies of the Adult Disability Supplement.

For more information on the difference between MassHealth Standard and MassCare Plus, see MLRI’s chart describing the programs

Immigrants and Disability Determinations:

Legally present (LPR, parolees, battered) immigrants under age 65 who receive EAEDC will have a disability determination done by UMass DES. Elder immigrants who get EAEDC cannot get a DES disability evaluation.  If you are an elder immigrant receiving EAEDC, DTA has a medical form where your doctor can certify that you meet the SSI standards. This is especially important for legal permanent residents subject to the 5-year waiting period. See If I am a disabled immigrant, do I need to wait 5 years?.

DTA Policy Guidance:

DTA Online Guide

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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