Department of Human Services
Food Stamp Online Policy Manual
VERIFICATION AT INITIAL APPLICATION
At application, the caseworker must examine both financial and non-financial factors of eligibility for Food Stamps. Information provided by the applicant/recipient on each factor must be examined and must be verified and documented on CLRC in ACCENT.
The following describes financial and non-financial factors, which must be verified before eligibility, and level of benefits is determined:
For Food Stamp purposes, the identity of the person making the application shall be verified. Where an authorized representative applies on behalf of a household, the identity of both the authorized representative and the head of the household shall be verified through documentary evidence, or if unavailable, a collateral contact. Examples of acceptable documentary evidence include, but are not limited to, a driver’s license, a work or school ID, an ID for health benefits or another assistance (Families First) or social service program, a voter registration card, wage stubs or a birth certificate.
For expedited service, identity is the only verification required for the initial month.
Residency is a requirement in the Food Stamp program. There is no duration requirement, however.
Households must be living in the county in which they file an application. The only exception to this requirement is that a household may apply for food stamps in another county when a hospital-based caseworker takes the application. The caseworker must verify residence in conjunction with verification of other information such as rent and mortgage payments, utility expenses, and identity. If residence cannot be verified in conjunction with other information, the caseworker must use a collateral contact or other readily available documentary evidence.
Exception: In unusual cases (e.g., migrants and farm workers, homeless households or households newly arrived in the country) if verification of residence cannot be readily accomplished, the caseworker may accept the household’s statement that it resides in the county.
Residence does not have to be verified in order to change an address on the system; it must, however, be verified in order to allow shelter expense in a budget.
The caseworker must verify alien status if members of the household are identified as aliens. Alien status is to be verified through the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system.
Note: Applicants for and recipients of assistance under the Refugee Resettlement Program are not subject to the SAVE requirements.
An applicant or recipient must
furnish a social security number (SSN) as a condition of eligibility. If he cannot furnish a number, he must
apply for one. Assistance cannot be denied,
delayed or terminated pending the issuance or verification of a social
security number as long as the applicant or recipient has either furnished
the number or applied for one. If an
SS-5 is completed in the
If a HH member can show good cause why an application for an SSN has not been completed in a timely manner, that person shall be allowed to participate for one month in addition to the application month. If the HH member applying for the SSN has been unable to obtain documents required by the Social Security Administration, the caseworker will make every effort to assist the individual in obtaining the documents. Good cause for failure to apply for a number must be shown monthly in order for a HH member to continue to participate in the program.
Verification of reported social security numbers may be accomplished by matching the reported number with BENDEX, SDX, wire-to-wire, observing the social security card or any official document from the Social Security Administration containing the SSN, or by utilizing the SS-5 process.
Determining the correct composition of the HH is crucial. The number of persons in the household must be verified prior to approval, at each recertification, and anytime the household size changes.
The caseworker must verify household size and/or composition by either a collateral contract or other source of verification that will provide accurate verification of the number of people in the FS household. Examples of acceptable collateral contacts are landlords, neighbors, social agencies or other reasonable sources.
When individuals live in the same household and claim separate Food Stamp household status, a signed statement from each head of household is acceptable verification of separate HH status.
Examples of acceptable collateral contacts are landlords, neighbors, and social agencies.
Countable and non-countable liquid and non-liquid resources must be verified, if questionable. Caseworkers will accept the applicant’s/recipient’s declaration of the value of any safety deposit box items. The amount of any savings or checking accounts will be verified at each application and recertification. Acceptable verification is documentary evidence such as statements from banks or other savings institutions.
The fair market value of a vehicle is determined to be the listed value for a particular vehicle in the NADA (“blue book”) guide or the following websites:
· Kelly Blue Book - http://www.kbb.com
· Edmund's - http://edmunds.com
· Pricing - http://www.autopricing.com
If the vehicle is no longer listed, the client’s statement of value will be accepted.
Gross non-exempt income should be verified prior to approval. However, if all means of securing documentary evidence have been exhausted, the client’s signed and dated statement can be accepted.
“Income” includes both earned (wages and salaries) and unearned (money received from sources other than employment) income. The source and amount of all income for each HH member must be explored to determine whether it is to be counted or exempt. (See also section 1240-1-4 in the income section.)
When documentary evidence of current earnings is not available because the applicant/recipient is self-employed, the applicant’s/recipient’s business records and 1040 Income Tax forms from previous period may be used to estimate monthly income. If no business records have been kept, or if the applicant/recipient has not been self-employed long enough to have filed Form 1040, the caseworker and applicant/recipient must determine an amount to be used based on the best available information. In some instances this may be the applicant’s/recipient’s signed statement. The case must be fully documented on CLRC to reflect how the amount was determined.
Verification of an individual’s lack of employment may be obtained through a collateral contact or with documentary evidence of recent unemployment (e.g., a layoff notice). Clearinghouse should be used, if there is no DEUC match, to verify whether an individual is receiving unemployment compensation.
In instances where the household’s expenses exceed known income, the caseworker should carefully explore how those expenses are met with the household. However, these circumstances in and of themselves shall not be grounds for denial.
Acceptable verification of income includes documentary evidence such as copies of most recent wage stubs, an employee’s W-2 form, IRS form 1040, Clearinghouse wage match (to verify past wages), ACCENT wage match, and a statement from an employer. If documentary evidence is not available, the applicant’s/recipient’s signed and dated statement can be accepted.
Documentation of how the gross income was derived is crucial for QC purposes. In order for a case with fluctuating income to be a “correct” case for Quality Control purposes, the caseworker must have fully and accurately documented how the gross monthly income was determined. Documentation must include the date and gross amount for each pay period used, with the appropriate number of pay periods recorded. In addition, the actual calculations used to arrive at the gross monthly income figure should be shown in order to demonstrate how the caseworker arrived at that figure. If the income was averaged and converted a statement to that effect must be recorded and the appropriate conversion factor should be shown.
For Food Stamp fluctuating income cases the caseworker must determine what is representative income for the prospective period based on earnings from the prior period. At a minimum, at least two months of known income, or one month of income that is known and can be reasonably anticipated to be representative, is needed to determine an average income. Pay patterns must be established. Checks may be disregarded if they are not representative for the future period. The justification for this procedure must be fully documented in the case on CLRC.
When the Food Stamp household’s income is averaged, the averaged amount must be used for each month of the certification period, including the month of application. This does not apply to income from a new source when it was not received during the entire month of application.
Income averaging is prohibited for a destitute household during the first month since averaging would result in assigning income for a future period to the month of application when that income is not available to the family in that month.
Note: When a FS applicant claims deductible expenses and documentary verification is not available, the caseworker should first determine if the amount of the claimed expense will result in a deduction. If the deductible expense will result in delaying the household’s certification, the caseworker must inform the household that its benefit amount must be determined without providing a deduction for the claimed expense. If the household subsequently provides the necessary verification the caseworker must make a timely redetermination.
Medical expenses in excess of $35 per month are deductible for elderly or disabled household members, as defined in Section 1240-1-9.
Verify the amount of the expense and the amount of the reimbursement prior to allowing it as a deduction. Verification of other factors, such as allowability of services provided or the eligibility of the person incurring the costs, is required if questionable.
Acceptable verification for one-time medical expenses consists of documentary evidence such as receipts, cancelled checks, or bills from doctors, pharmacies, clinics, etc.
(9) Dependent Care Expenses
Dependent care expenses are allowable deductions for Food Stamps. These expenses must be verified prior to allowing them as a deduction.
When a household claims dependent care costs, verify the actual amount of the cost if allowance of the expense would result in increased benefits.
Acceptable verification of dependent care is documentary evidence such as a statement from the provider of the services.
Shelter cost must be verified at initial eligibility determination, when shelter expense changes, if it is allowed as a deduction.
When a household claims that money received is a loan, the caseworker must verify that it is, indeed, a loan and that it is expected to be repaid. When verifying whether income is exempt as a loan, a formal legal document is not required. A repayment agreement may be a simple statement signed by both parties, which indicates that the money is a loan and what the plans are for repayment.
Disability must be verified prior to allowing any special consideration regarding medical deductions, excess shelter deductions, use of net income standards, separate household status for parent/child and siblings, and elderly disabled persons who live with others and purchase and prepare food with others.
(a) Receipt of disability or blindness benefits (for all special considerations except granting of separate household status to elderly, disabled individuals purchasing and preparing food with others) from SSI or Social Security is verification of disability for those individuals receiving such benefits.
(b) Disability for a veteran may be verified by observation or documentary evidence from VA.
(c) Disability for a surviving spouse or child of a veteran may be verified by observation or a statement from a physician or licensed or certified psychologist.
(d) Disability for an elderly disabled person who lives with and purchases food with others may be based on observation or a statement from a physician or licensed or certified psychologist.
Striker status of any household member must be verified when there is a known strike in the employment area and there is a history of recent employment.
(a) Relationship - The relationship of the child(ren) for whom benefits is being requested, to one applicant, may need to be established.
(b) Age - The age of children in a household may need to be verified as it applies to ABAWD policy or exemption as it relates to the adult in the household.
(c) School Attendance - As it relates to exemptions and other areas.
The caseworker must verify factors other than those listed above that are questionable and would affect the household’s eligibility or level of benefits. Questionable information can be information on the application, which is:
(a) inconsistent with statements made by the applicant;
(b) inconsistent with other information on the application or previous applications.
(c) inconsistent with information received by the caseworker.
Questionable information is not limited to the above criteria if, in the prudent judgement of the caseworker and/or supervisor, the information provided by the household appears to be unreasonable when considered in relation to the other household circumstances.
When determining if information is questionable, the caseworker will base the decision on each household’s individual circumstances.