SNAP benefits are often awarded to help people with low incomes to meet some basic needs. The government takes these benefits seriously and is always on the lookout for people that may try to abuse the system. Trying to defraud the government on the SNAP benefits means that there are needy people that would be left out from the assistance. As such, there are various sanctions imposed on those found to have abused the SNAP benefits. Since the consequences of disqualification can be dire, it is important for a person to be represented by a lawyer. The attorney can help to fight the disqualification or ensure that due process is followed. The lawyers can also explain what it means to be disqualified.
The recipients of SNAP benefits are supposed to meet certain criteria in order to be awarded the assistance. If the beneficiaries fail to meet the requirements, they are supposed to be disqualified. The disqualification can also come about as a result of violating some of the rules set in the program. Disqualification means that the person or household does not receive SNAP benefits for a period of time. It might also mean the imposition of sanctions that may include restitution for the benefits acquired through fraud.
The process of disqualification is carried out in stages. This means that a person cannot be issued with a second disqualification if the first has not been issued and completed. The same applies for a third disqualification which requires the second disqualification to have ended. Once the investigating officers determine that there is cause for a disqualification, they wrap up the case and send a notice to the beneficiary informing them of the disqualification and the reasons. The notice also includes information on the level of disqualification and when it may end.
In order to fully understand the consequences of disqualification, it is important to know the various types in existence. The first disqualification occurs as a result of not meeting the work requirements specified by SNAP. For a household to qualify for SNAP benefits, the members aged between 16 and 59 are supposed to comply with the specified Employment and Training (E&T) requirements. Unless there is an exemption, failure to comply with the requirements results in automatic disqualification. There is also the Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) Work Program rule that is supposed to be met by those aged between 18 and 49. If there is noncompliance for a period of three months within a three year period, then there is a chance of disqualification. In such cases, the first disqualification lasts for three months, the second lasts for six months, and the third lasts for a year.
A disqualification can also be issued for an Intentional Program Violation (IPV). This occurs when a beneficiary takes any measure meant to increase their eligibility for SNAP benefits. This is done willfully and knowingly with an intention to be deceitful. If the beneficiary defrauds the system to the extent that he or she receives SNAP benefits multiple times, then a disqualification can be issued for ten years. This requires for the department to identify the fraudulent activity, or for the court system to convict the person. This misrepresentation can be made with regards to identity or place of residence.
It is illegal for a SNAP beneficiary to engage in trade for the benefits. When an individual is found either selling or buying these benefits, a disqualification that lasts for two years for the first finding can be issued. If the individual is found to have repeated the offense for the second time, he or she can be banned permanently. There can also be a permanent disqualification in the first finding if the trading was carried out for the purpose of purchasing firearms, ammunition, or other weapons such as explosives. In addition, a first finding can also result in a permanent disqualification if the SNAP benefits being traded were worth $500 or more.
An individual found to be fleeing from the law enforcement with the aim of either avoiding prosecution or escaping custody after a felony conviction can be deemed ineligible for SNAP benefits. The same applies for those found to have violated the conditions of their parole. However, this policy is still being developed and requires clarification from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service before it is applied. In such an instance, the interests of an accused person would best be served if they were represented by a lawyer that is knowledgeable on the details.
Sometimes a beneficiary may quit their employment without having a justifiable reason. In such an instance, the entire household can be disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits for a period of three months in the first instance, six months in the second, and a year in the third. The SNAP Employment and Training requirements specify that a capable individual is supposed to hold a job while receiving certain types of benefits. Quitting such a job without a valid reason amounts to a violation of the requirements.
In addition to the beneficiaries, there are retail stores that play a significant role in implementing the SNAP benefits program. Individuals with the food stamps shop at these retailers which in turn claim the amounts from the department. The retailers are supposed to follow strict guidelines when dealing with the SNAP benefit claims. For instance, there are specific food items that are covered by the SNAP benefits. The retailers must not charge ineligible items such as cigarettes on the food stamps. If such retailer violates the requirements, there are various consequences. For instance, the retailer may be disqualified from the SNAP program. This is a loss of income for the firm. In addition, a suit for civil claims may be filed where the retailer may be required to pay back the money earned illegally from the SNAP program. As such, from a review of the consequences available to both the beneficiaries and retailers in the SNAP benefits program, it is important for all parties to have legal representation. The lawyers would offer the advice needed to avoid unnecessary disqualification or civil money suits.