An estimated 60,000 veterans may lose SNAP (food stamp) benefits over the course of 2016 as a three-month limit on benefits for unemployed, nondisabled adults without children returns in many areas. The House and Senate Budget Committees can help protect these veterans — and the rest of the estimated 1 million people facing the loss of food assistance — by providing the resources in the budget resolutions planned for release next week. At the very least, they shouldn’t make matters worse by assuming deep cuts to SNAP.
One of the harshest pieces of the 1996 welfare law, the provision limits childless adults to three months of SNAP benefits in any 36-month period unless they are working half time or participating in a training program. It doesn’t require states and localities to help the affected people find jobs or provide a place in a job training program that would allow them to keep benefits — and very few do so.
Many states have temporarily waived the three-month limit in recent years due to high unemployment. But as the economy continues to recover and unemployment falls, the waivers will end and more people will face the limit.
Low-income veterans are especially vulnerable to the time limit. Unemployment for veterans serving since September 2001 remains high, averaging 9 percent in 2013 (the most recent year available).
The loss of SNAP benefits can have a serious impact on veteran and other low-income households. People subject to the three-month limit have average monthly income of only about 19 percent of the poverty line — about $2,200 per year for a household of one in 2014 — and typically don’t qualify for other income support.