You have the right to file an application for Food Stamps on the day you contact Social Services

This right exists during Social Services “business hours” and means that if you walk into a Social Services office, they must give you an application, let you fill it out, and date stamp it –all on the same day! No one can tell you to come back on another day to file an application. They can tell you to come back for an interview, but they must accept your application on the day you contact them.

You have the right to be “screened” by Social Services to see if you need expedited Food Stamps on the day you come in

Expedited Food Stamps are emergency Food Stamps for folks with less than $150 in monthly gross income or less than $100 in what are called “resources” (like a bank account or property that you can turn into cash quickly). Migrant workers also can get expedited Food Stamps. Read the Regulation: 7 CFR 273.2
If you qualify for expedited Food Stamps you have the right to get them within 7 days of your application filing
These seven days include weekends and holidays. If the 7th day falls on a day Social Services is closed, your expedited Food Stamps should be available before then--when the office was open for business. Otherwise, they have missed the 7 day deadline and have violated the law.

You have the right to a Food Stamps eligibility decision in 30 days

The only way Social Services can take more time than the 30 days from the date of application is when they send you a notice saying that your application is “pending” and tell you why. In cases where you get an application is pending notice, a decision must be made no later than 60 days from application. Read the Regulation: 7 CFR 273.10
You have the right to help from Social Services in getting necessary documents for your application
You will have to have a face-to-face interview with Social Services, but you can always submit documents or verifications by mail, fax, or through other electronic devices. Whenever you mail or drop something off, get a receipt. Remember, however, Social Services has to help you get the things you are having problems getting.

You can have a face to face interview with Social Services at home or over the phone
This is not a right, but if you have difficulties with transportation, illness, caring for a household member, work or training hours that prevent an in-office interview, Social Services can waive the face-to-face interview that is necessary for a Food Stamps application. Interviews can take place over the phone or through a home visit.

  • In households in which all members are disabled or elderly and have no earned income, Social Services can waive the face-to-face interview and use a telephone interview.

If you are elderly or disabled, Social Services must consider any medical expenses you have

Elderly means you are over 60 years of age.

Disabled means you get:

  • SSI or Social Security based on disability
  • Veterans assistance based on disability or the VA considers you “housebound”
  • RR retirement benefits because of disability
  • TDAP while you’re waiting to get your Social Security or SSI
  • Medical assistance based on disability Read the Law: 7 USC 2012

You have the right to appeal a denial or termination of Food Stamps

If you are getting cut-off of Food Stamps you can continue getting benefits during the appeal if you appeal within 10 days of the date the notice was mailed to you. This doesn’t apply if the “cut-off” is actually a failed Food Stamps recertification. You can appeal any action within 30 days of the date of the notice. Read the Regulation: 7 CFR 273.15


This information contributed by Maryland Legal Aid.
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