text size
+
Print icon

14. How “elderly” and “disabled” are defined by the Food Stamp Act

In the Food Stamp Act the terms “elderly” and “disabled” have particular meanings that condition one’s eligibility for food stamps. See, generally, 7 U.S.C. § 2012(r); and 7 C.F.R. § 271.2 (definition of elderly or disabled member).]

The Food Stamp Act defines “elderly” as 60 years of age or older. [7 U.S.C. § 2012(r)(1); 7 C.F.R. § 271.2; MPP § 63-102(e)(1) (definition of "elderly or disabled member").]

To be considered “disabled” for food stamp purposes, the person must receive disability benefits.  The local food stamp office cannot decide for itself that a person is disabled. Rather, people who receive any of the following disability benefits count as “disabled” in the Food Stamp Program:

Someone who has been approved for disability benefits but is not getting checks because an old overpayment is being recouped should be treated as “disabled.” Individuals whose SSI or TANF (in California, known as CalWORKs) benefits are suspended or are being recouped or not paid because the grant is less than the minimum benefit are considered “recipients” and hence categorically eligible.   Someone who has been approved for disability benefits but has not started to receive them should also be treated as disabled. See USDA Policy Memorandum 85-15 (April 12, 1985.)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). [7 U.S.C. § 2012(r)(2)(A); 7 C.F.R. § 271.2(j).] (For SSI, this does not necessarily confer eligibility for CalFresh, but rather is used to determine the categorical eligibility.)
  • Social Security disability or blindness benefits.
  • Disability-related Medi-Cal or Medicaid. Caveat No. 1: USDA regulations treat recipients of disability-related Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) as disabled for food stamp purposes only if the Medi-Cal disability criterion is as stringent as that used in the SSI program. [See 7 C.F.R. § 271.2 (definition of "elderly or disabled member").] However, an argument can be made that the Food Stamp Act contains no such limitation. [See 7 U.S.C. § 2012(r)(2)(B).]
  • Disability-related general assistance or general relief, if eligibility is based on criteria as stringent as used in the SSI program. Caveat No. 2: Essentially, this is the same caveat, above: Like the rule that applies to disability-related Medi-Cal, USDA and state regulations treat recipients of “general assistance” and “interim assistance” as disabled for food stamp purposes only if the assistance disability criteria are as stringent as that used in the SSI program.
  • Interim assistance pending receipt of SSI.
  • Public disability retirement pensions, if it is for the kind of disability that Social Security says cannot get better.
  • Railroad retirement disability payments. Caveat No. 3: Pretty much as stated, above: USDA and state regulations treat recipients of railroad retirement disability benefits as disabled only if they are getting Medicare or were found disabled under the same rules Social Security uses. [See 7 C.F.R. § 271.2; MPP § 63-102(e)(1)(K) (definition of "elderly or disabled member").] Again, as mentioned above with other categories, the Food Stamp Act contains no such apparent limitation. [See 7 U.S.C. § 2012(r)(7).]
  • Veterans’ disability benefits. The definition depends on whether the recipient is the veteran, or a spouse or child of a veteran. The following qualify:
      • Veterans: those with a service- or nonservice-connected disability the Veterans Administration (“VA”) has rated or paid as “total” or who the VA considers to be in need of regular aid and attendance or permanently housebound. MPP §63-102(e)(1)(G) and (H);
      • Spouse: if the VA says the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran needs regular aid and attendance or is permanently house-bound or who is receiving or approved for service-connected death benefits or pension benefits for a nonservice-connected death, and the spouse has a permanent disability under the Social Security standards.MPP §63-102(e)(1)(I) and (J);
      • Child: the child of a veteran whom the VA says can never support themselves or who is receiving or approved for service-connected death benefits or pension benefits for a nonservice-connected death, and the child has a permanent disability under the Social Security standards. MPP §63-102(e)(1)(I) and (J);
    For related information, see the section about the special rules that apply to the elderly and disabled.