Key Takeaways

  • As many as 18 million U.S. adults are veterans. Many are over the age of 65, live with a disability, or both.

  • Age and disability status can limit employment and lead to income-related hardships, yet many veterans aren’t aware they qualify for food stamps.

  • Special eligibility rules mean you could be eligible for a key financial resource that can improve your health and well-being. See how.

Each year, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits help millions of families and adults across the U.S. buy the nutritious food they need to stay healthy on a budget. This includes individuals who have served in the U.S. military.

In fact, in 2019 alone, SNAP-participating households included 1.1 million veterans.1 And according to Brandy Bauer, director of NCOA’s MIPPA Resource Center, the number who qualify but don’t know it is likely even higher.

“Consider that 18 million Americans—seven percent of the U.S. adult population—are veterans,” Bauer said. “Their median age is 65. And post 9/11 veterans experience a 43 percent chance of having a service-related disability.

“Older adults, and individuals living with disabilities, often rely on fixed monthly incomes,” she said.

We know it can be difficult to make ends meet in these circumstances. That’s why we encourage veterans to learn more about food assistance programs and to apply for SNAP benefits if they’re eligible. Otherwise, they could be missing out on key financial assistance that would make a tangible difference in their day-to-day lives.”

Could you be one of them?

Learn more about SNAP assistance, whether you might qualify for it under special eligibility rules, and why it can be a good idea for veterans. Using NCOA’s secure BenefitsCheckUp digital tool, you can even apply for SNAP when you’re ready.

I’m a veteran. Do I qualify for SNAP food assistance?

You very well might.

To be eligible and apply for SNAP benefits, you must meet specific resource and income limits that are set and managed by the state in which you live. Most SNAP guidelines apply to all households. However, the program also includes special eligibility rules for older adults and disabled individuals, regardless of their age. This means it’s possible to qualify for and receive SNAP food assistance even if you also collect other benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, or if you live with other people.

What are the SNAP income limits for older or disabled veterans?

If you want to apply for SNAP, and you’re a veteran over the age or 60 or live with a disability, your household generally must meet the following two special eligibility requirements:

  • Your net monthly income must be equal to or below 100% of the federal poverty line.
  • Your assets must amount to $3,750 or less.

Your net income is your gross income minus any allowable deductions. And assets are "countable resources" like cash, money in a bank account, and certain vehicles. In 2022, a two-member household with a net monthly income of $1,525 (100% of poverty) might qualify for SNAP.2

If you’re a combat veteran, it’s important to note that any combat pay, hostile fire pay, or imminent danger pay does not count as income when applying for SNAP.3

There are a variety of allowable deductions, including those for excess medical expenses, that can help you meet the net income test, too. And many assets—such as your home, if you own one—don't count toward the $3,750 limit.

Finally, if you live in a household where every member receives SSI benefits, you may “categorically” qualify for SNAP without having to meet the net income test.

What if I live with my children or other family members? Am I still eligible for SNAP?

You could be. Under the same special eligibility rules, you (and your spouse, if applicable) may qualify as a separate household if you’re over the age of 60 or unable to purchase or prepare your own meals because of a permanent disability.

Collectively, the remaining members of your household will still need to meet SNAP income limits, defined in this situation as no more than 165% of the federal poverty level.

Why should I take advantage of SNAP food assistance for veterans?

A healthy diet can help combat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that often arise as we age, and that disproportionately affect people living with disabilities. But it can be hard to afford nutritious food if your employment is limited or if you’re on a fixed income. SNAP can help you increase your purchasing power. And there’s no dishonor in claiming benefits that you’ve worked hard to earn.

SNAP benefits can be used for fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, dairy products, non-alcoholic beverages, and other qualifying purchases at participating retailers including supermarkets, convenience stores, and even some farmers’ markets.

Wondering whether it’s worth it to apply? The average monthly SNAP benefit for a non-elderly disabled, single-person household is $107.4 In households with one or more elderly disabled adults, the average per-person monthly SNAP benefit is $95. And sixty-seven percent of the time, non-elderly disabled adults who participate in SNAP also receive SSI benefits. With SNAP, you can take advantage of additional financial assistance that can make a real difference to your health and budget.

David Z., 75, can attest to that. As a disabled veteran who relies on SSDI income, he stretches every dollar—but often that’s not enough.

“After I got help applying for SNAP, I was approved for $86 in monthly benefits,” he said. “I have an immense amount of gratitude for the assistance, which helps me cover my utility and other expenses without worry.”

I’m ready. How do I apply for SNAP?

Each state designs its own SNAP application process, so your first step is to check with your local SNAP office. While some states provide online SNAP applications, not all do; you may have to apply by regular mail or over the phone. And before you begin filling out the forms, you’ll need to have information about your annual net income, household size, and “countable assets” close at hand.

This may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’d like assistance navigating the process, NCOA is here to help.

Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org for all the information you need. See if you’re eligible for SNAP benefits using the secure, confidential screening tool. 

What other veterans’ benefits might help me maintain my health, independence, and financial security?

Be sure to reference NCOA’s handy guide: 18 Benefits for Veterans: Helping Our Nation’s Heroes.

Sources

1. USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s “Military and Veteran Families” page. Found on the internet at https://www.fns.usda.gov/military-and-veteran-families

2. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) Poverty Guidelines. Found on the internet at https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines

3. USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s “Military and Veteran Families” page. Found on the internet at https://www.fns.usda.gov/military-and-veteran-families

4. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2019, found on the internet at https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/Characteristics2019.pdf (p.37)