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August 03, 2017

SNAP Benefits

For many lower-income individuals in West Virginia and across the country, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (better known as food stamps) provide the means to satisfy some of the most basic needs we all share.  Reduction or discontinuation of these important benefits can mean going hungry.

SNAP benefits are subject to many rules, and recipients can find themselves in trouble for seemingly innocent actions.  For instance, payments made with SNAP benefits must be made at the time of sale, so that benefits cannot be used for payments on credit accounts, and retailers cannot keep a recipient's account information for future use.  A recipient can find himself or herself facing serious accusations such as fraud, which can lead to reduction or termination of vital benefits.  Under the pressure of these potentially devastating consequences, recipients may want to get through the process as quickly as possible and not take advantage of procedural protections available to them.  It's important that recipients know their rights in these situations.

Federal regulations impose certain requirements on notices of violations issued to SNAP benefits recipients.  Among other information, the notice must identify the charges and contain a summary of the evidence.  The State should make clear that the recipient may refuse to be interviewed, and while criminal action is possible, there are certain limitations on its use.

A SNAP benefits recipient is entitled to a fair hearing on accusations of program violations, and is protected by the right to have evidence disclosed before the hearing and cross-examine witnesses against him or her.  Our website's public benefits page at www.lawv.net/Resources/Self-Help-Library/Public-Benefits contains additional information on SNAP benefits and the fair hearing process.  Of course, every situation is different and the results can turn on the particular facts of a case, which underscores how important it is that a benefits recipient accused of a program violation contact a lawyer for help navigating the process.