Military families apply online for food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the same way as other families. Even though SNAP is a federal benefit, all states govern their own delivery of the program. Some states offer an online application,while others do not. Military applicants are responsible for providing proof of income and resources, though in some cases not all military pay is included in the calculation.
Applying Online for Food Stamps
Applying online for food stamp benefits is the most convenient option for most families. Contact your local Health and Human Services office to see if that's an option. If so, register for an account and fill out the application form.
Be prepared to answer questions about your household composition and military pay. Base pay, housing pay, flight pay and monthly subsistence food pay is included in your countable income when determining whether you're eligible for SNAP benefits. However, combat pay is not counted. Some states will allow you to upload documents and submit them with your application to verify income and resources. Be prepared to submit the last two to four months of your leave and earning statements.
Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Program
In an effort to minimize the need for food stamps, the Department of Defense developed the Family Subsistence Allowance Program to offset the cost of food for military families in need. All services use the same application.
Download the application from the Defense Manpower Data Center. Locate the link at the bottom of the page under "Login to FSSA." You must print the document and submit it to your community service center or FSSA representative. The amount of FSSA you receive will depend on what the military calculates based on your income and family size. If you receive SNAP benefits, your FSSA amount will equal the allotment you receive from that. If approved for FSSA, you will see additional funds added to your monthly pay under your entitlements.
Unlike SNAP benefits, FSSA is a cash benefit. You do not receive a card linked to a special account.
If you receive SNAP benefits and then qualify for FSSA, you must report the amount of FSSA you receive to the SNAP office. It counts as income in your case.
Qualifying for Programs
Qualifying for SNAP and FSSA benefits as a military member is difficult. The Department of Defense has stated that the soldiers on food stamps are young, low-ranking and already have several children. Both programs, SNAP and FSSA, follow the federal poverty limit when determining who qualifies for assistance. In most cases, you cannot make more than 130 percent of the poverty limit. The threshold increases with family size. For example, as of the date of publication, a family of three can make no more than $2,144 per month to qualify, and a family of six can make no more that $3,464 per month to qualify.
Depending on your circumstances, such as if you have a household member with a disability, you might be able to qualify for SNAP at greater than 130 percent of the FPIL.
Other programs assist soldiers with financial needs. The American Red Cross provides help to military families who need emergency food and other resources. To see if you qualify, call the Red Cross at 877-272-7337. Provide as much pertinent information as possible, including the soldier's unit and the active duty member's Social Security number. Each branch of service also has a relief center that provides emergency funds to military families. They are:
Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.