Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program administered by the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) that pays monthly benefits to low-income people with disabilities. It's a separate program from the federal program that provides food stamps.
Food stamps are provided under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Like SSI eligibility, food stamp eligibility is based on your income and resources.
The federal SNAP program puts food on the tables of millions of low-income families. You can only use SNAP benefits to buy food and non-alcoholic beverages.
Initially, the program issued paper coupons (food stamps) that came in specific dollar amounts (like $1, $10, and $20 coupons). These coupons worked a lot like cash. If you were eligible, you'd receive a set amount of food stamp coupons by mail every month.
Today, if you're eligible for SNAP benefits, instead of coupons, you'll get an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card that works a lot like a debit card or gift card with a PIN (personal identification number). Your state's SNAP office will electronically refill your EBT each month. (The process is automatic, so your monthly benefits will just appear on your card on the same day each month.)
Although each state runs its own food stamp program, and some call it by a different name, all food stamp programs are still part of the federal SNAP program. That means you can use your SNAP EBT card (no matter what your state calls it) to buy food at participating locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Although most people who receive SSI will be eligible for food stamps, each state is different. SNAP benefits are administered at the state level, and what you need to qualify in your state may be different than the requirements of other states.
No matter where you live, you'll need to meet the income limits set by your state to get food stamps. Most households not receiving SSI must meet limits on both gross income (before taxes are withheld) and net income (after deductions) to qualify for SNAP benefits.
But if you're getting disability benefits, you only need to meet the net income test. And you'll generally be considered income-eligible for food stamps if you're getting SSI (or if everyone in your household is on SSI).
Since each state runs its own SNAP program, the application process can vary somewhat from state to state. For instance, some states have a combined application system, where you'll automatically be enrolled in SNAP (if you're eligible) when you apply for SSI. To take advantage of automatic SNAP enrollment, you must be the only person in your household applying for or receiving SSI benefits.
You'll need to fill out a separate application if:
To apply for SNAP benefits through Social Security, you'll need to do one of the following:
You can also get a SNAP application at your local Social Security office, and a food stamps representative should be there to help you fill it out. Or, you can fill out the application and check your eligibility by contacting your local SNAP office. The USDA has an interactive map you can use to find the SNAP office locations in your state and their contact information.
The federal food stamp program was created to help low-income people by adding giving them additional resources so they can put healthy food on their tables. As such, receiving SNAP benefits won't affect the amount of your monthly SSI benefit—even if you get extra SSI benefits from your state.
A note about California: Until recently, California was the only state that didn't allow people receiving SSI to get food stamps. This was because the state paid SSI recipients extra money (to be used for food) on top of their monthly SSI federal benefit.
In 2019, California SSI recipients became eligible for CalFresh (California's version of the federal SNAP program for food stamps). And getting SNAP benefits doesn't affect the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) that California adds to your SSI benefits. If you live in California, you can now apply for CalFresh online, by phone, or in person at your county's CalFresh office.
No, receiving food stamps doesn't affect your eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI. Food stamps are not considered income.
Updated August 8, 2022