Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) yesterday introduced legislation to enhance veterans' access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Disabled Veterans Nutrition Fairness Act of 2012 will enable veterans to file for SNAP benefits under the status of disabled while their disability claims are pending at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"It's appalling. There are 1.5 million veterans who are at risk of homelessness due to poverty and lack of support. The VA has 880,000 pending disability claims as of July, 2012. My bill will ensure that wounded veterans, who are stuck in the severe and unacceptable backlog of disability claims at the VA, will not have to suffer from being denied other critical services, such as SNAP, while they await determination," said Speier.
"Increasing nutrition assistance is a small fix to a large problem. But it is a step in the right direction as more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and physical impairments that handicap their transition into civilian life. SNAP is designed to help those on the brink of poverty and it is nothing short of our patriotic duty to ensure that our nation's heroes prosper," Speier concluded.
Currently, a disabled veteran is not considered disabled for the purposes of the SNAP program unless they are receiving veteran's disability benefits and rated by the VA as having a service or non-service connected disability that is total or debilitating. Key advantages for filing with this status include being able to deduct excess medical expenses and redeem benefits at certain facilities that serve prepared meals. Both are critical for veterans who suffer from a host of war-related mental and physical injuries.
Veterans who file their claims in Oakland, Los Angeles, or Seattle, are waiting an average of 320 days for the VA to process their disability claims. The bill enables these veterans to apply for SNAP benefits as "disabled," but it does not make them automatically eligible for the program. Each applicant will still be required to pass the net income test based on 100 percent of the federal poverty level.