76. What medical expenses can I claim if I am elderly or disabled?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Any member of your household who is elder (age 60 or older) or disabled is allowed to claim un-reimbursed medical and health-related expenses as an income deduction. This applies to disabled children as well as adults. Medical expenses to qualify for the standard medical deduction can be self-declared!

The more expenses you claim, the lower your net countable income. The lower your countable income, the higher the SNAP benefits your household will receive – up to the maximum SNAP amount for your household.

There are two ways SNAP handles un-reimbursed medical expenses1.

  • Standard medical deduction of $155: If your out-of-pocket medical expenses are at least $35 a month, you will receive a standard deduction of $155 off of your monthly income. You can self-declare your health care expenses that exceed $35/month and get the standard $155 deduction.
  • Actual medical expenses: If you incur and verify more than $190 per month in medical expenses (the $35 threshold plus the $155 standard deduction), you can claim the actual expenses (minus the $35 threshold) to boost your SNAP benefits.


Esther is 78 years old. She has MassHealth coverage, but the combination of small pharmacy co-pays plus over-the-counter pain relief, travel and other items add up to $35+ per month. Esther can self-declare these expenses. Her SNAP benefits will be calculated using a $155 medical expense deduction.

If Esther has more than $190/month in out-of-pocket expenses, and if verifying them would boost her monthly SNAP, she should claim and verify her actual expenses.

If you have a one-time medical expense during your certification period, you have the option of claiming the expense as a one-time deduction or having it averaged over a number of months2. DTA should look for the most advantageous option for averaging the one-time bill.

Example 1

Esther is 70 and applies for SNAP. She receives Social Security for a total of $1,300/month unearned income and is certified for SNAP for 12 months. She also pays $500/month in rent, plus the cost of heat and utilities. She is approved for $201 in SNAP. A month later, she reports a one-time unpaid dental bill of $500. DTA should average her bill out over the next 11 months (the rest of her certification period). Averaging the $500 by 11 months ($45/mo), Esther gets the standard medical expense deduction. Her SNAP increases to $270.

Example 2

Esther’s one-time unpaid dental bill is actually $350. $350 over 11 months does not exceed $35 (is only $31). The DTA worker should average her bill out over 10 months to give her the $155 standard medical expense deduction, which maximizes her SNAP. (The DTA worker should also ask Esther if she has any other out of pocket medical expenses that she could self-declare to boost her SNAP.)

Allowable health care expenses
  • co-pays or premiums for Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medex or other health insurance, and your deductible for Medicare Part D
  • any medical services from doctors, clinics, hospitals, laboratories, or other facilities that are not reimbursed by a third party
  • any custodial or attendant care services you need (even if the caregiver is a relative), as well as housekeeping services you pay for
  • costs for childcare even if not working, if you need to pay for care because of your age or disability
  • dental care, dentures, dental adhesives
  • health treatments by a licensed practitioner, including chiropractic, acupuncture, physical or other therapy
  • prescription drugs, including postage costs and any transportation costs to pick them up
  • over-the-counter vitamins and over-the-counter drugs recommended by a licensed health care provider such as aspirin, laxatives, insulin, herbal and homeopathic remedies (no prescription required)
  • eyeglasses, contact lenses/contact saline, hearing aids, batteries, communication equipment for the hearing or visually impaired
  • health-related supplies recommended by a health provider including incontinence supplies, creams and ointments, commodes and walkers
  • cost of a gym membership such as YMCA or health club membership
  • private transportation costs at the current federal mileage rate (as of January of 2024 it is 67 cents/mile)
  • out-of-pocket parking and tolls, or the monthly cost of taxis, vans, or public transportation needed to get to medical appointments
  • long distance phone calls related to obtaining medical services, or internet if needed for a medical device to function properly
  • veterinary bills, dog food, and other needs for all animals recommended by a medical provider (including trained service animals and therapy and emotional support animals); and
  • any other un-reimbursed medical expenses prescribed or recommended by your health care providers3.
Self-declaration of health care expenses

If you are claiming less than $190/month in medical expenses, you can self-declare these expenses under a special waiver that USDA approved for DTA. You will get the standard medical expense of $155/month.

Verification of higher health care expenses

If you are claiming more than $190/month in medical expenses, you are required to provide proof for your expenses, but only the amount of your medical expenses. If you do not verify expenses above $190, you will still get the $155 standard deduction for any expenses you self-declare.

You are not required to have paid the bill, or show you paid the bill (just that the cost wasn’t reimbursed)4. Note that
DTA automatically gets proof of any Medicare Part B premiums taken out of your Social Security benefits. You also do not need to give DTA multiple months of receipts or bills for recurring medical expenses, as long as you have at least one month worth of bills. You can tell DTA in writing or verbally how often you incur the expense.


In addition to her Medicare Part B premium of $174.70 per month, Martha pays roughly $50/month for vitamins and OTC pain relief. She gives DTA one pharmacy receipt for her vitamins pain relief. She writes DTA a note that she pays these expenses monthly and includes that she drives twice a month, 20 miles round trip, to the pharmacy. DTA should accept her proof of healthcare costs plus her self-declaration of her travel.

If you need to verify your medical expenses to claim more than $190/month in out-of-pocket expenses, the following are examples of proofs you can submit for medical expenses, but you can also submit other items:

  • Billing invoices canceled checks or other proof of your health care bills or insurance premiums (that you paid or you owe).
  • An Explanation of Benefits (EOB) health insurance statement showing how much you owe for co-pays or deductibles.
  • A Medicare Claim Summary to show the dates of visits to your doctor and laboratory visits, which you can use to claim your transportation costs (You can also verbally self-declare mileage by calling DTA).
  • A print-out from your pharmacy showing your co-pays and out-of- pocket payments for drugs. This is also useful to show all your visits to the pharmacy for claiming transportation. DTA does not need to know which medications you take. You can white out the medication names and dosages from the pharmacy print-out.
  • Copies of receipts for things you bought at a pharmacy or health supply store such as pain relief, recommended vitamins, skin ointments, hearing aid batteries, incontinence supplies. You do not need a prescription from your MD to claim these items.
  • A written or oral statement from you with the dates and mileage if you used your car to go to your doctor, physical therapy, pharmacy or other providers. If you drove (or had a friend or family member drive you) DTA can take verbal confirmation of your health care travel over the phone. DTA will help figure out the mileage. If you have a T-pass that you use for medical trips, show DTA the T-pass and receipt when you bought it.
When to claim

Claiming medical expenses will not boost your SNAP if you are already receiving the maximum monthly SNAP grant. See MLRI’s chart for when medical expenses can make a difference, along with other FAQs and screening forms: Masslegalservices.org/snap-medical

If your monthly medical expenses have not changed when you do your Recertification, you do not need to re-verify these expenses.

Predicting your medical expenses

DTA should make “a reasonable prediction” of the amount you “expect to be billed” for medical expenses during the certification period. You do not have to prove you paid your bills, only that you are responsible for the bill. However, you cannot claim a bill that an insurance company or other third party is going to pay or reimburse you for5,6,7.

DTA Online Guide

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON Online Guide for this section.


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