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Can I Get Extra Benefits for a Special Diet Allowance?

Can I Get Extra Benefits for a Special Diet Allowance?

Have you heard of the Special Diet Allowance? If you require a special diet due to a medical condition, you may be able to get more benefits to cover the extra cost of your food!

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Over the last 10 years, I’ve been asked over and over again if you can get extra SNAP benefits if you need a special diet. After all, these food benefits never go far enough to feed a low income family, and that’s especially true when one or more household members have special dietary needs.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that you can get extra SNAP benefits if you require a special diet. However, if you receive Medicaid or participate in a state supplemental SSI program, you may be able to get extra benefits to cover the cost of your special diet.

In this article, we will review which states offer a Special Diet Allowance and what you need to do to get those benefits. We will also explain what you can do to get extra food if you are not in one of those states that has a specific dietary program.

What is a Special Diet Allowance?

A Special Diet Allowance is a program that offers extra benefits to people who have specific dietary restrictions. This allowance was created because specialty food is usually more expensive than typical food.

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Only certain states have implemented a Special Diet Allowance. Each state that has authorized it administers the program a little differently. Typically, the allowance is only available for people who have a medical need and already receive Medicaid or SSI benefits through the state.

Who is eligible for the Special Diet Allowance?

Each state sets their own eligibility criteria for the allowance, so the requirements in your area may differ from those below.

However, there are some general guidelines that must be met in all states:

  • You must be participating in Medicaid or SSI.
  • You must live in a state that offers a Special Diet Allowance.
  • A doctor or medical professional must provide documentation that proves your special diet is medically necessary.

If you meet all of these requirements, then you may be able to get extra food benefits to help offset the cost of your special dietary needs.

How is the amount determined?

The amount of the Special Diet Allowance varies by state. In order to find out how much you might qualify for, please find your state in the section below.

What states offer a Special Diet Allowance?

There are only a few states that have authorized a Special Diet Allowance. These states include:

  • California
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon

We will review how this program works in every participating state.

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California

The state of California appears to have a benefit called a “Special Needs Allowance.”

In order to be eligible, your household must receive benefits from the State Supplementary Program for the Aged, Blind and Disabled (not just CalFresh). You must have special dietary needs or unusually high costs of transportation, laundry, housekeeping, telephone or utilities. If you can prove any of these extra expenses, you may be eligible.

The Special Needs Allowance pays up to $10 per month per eligible household member. That means a household that includes two people with special dietary needs and five people who do not have special dietary needs could receive an extra $20 per month. However, if the entire household had extraordinarily high telephone or laundry costs, that same household could receive an extra $70 per month because each family member would be affected.

You can read more about California’s Special Needs Allowance in the California Welfare and Institutions Code.

Minnesota

A Special Needs Allowance can be paid to those who receive Minnesota Supplemental Aid benefits. This is the state’s supplementary program that provides an extra payment to SSI recipients.

If you are currently receiving Minnesota Supplemental Aid benefits and your medical provider has prescribed you a specific special diet, you may be able to get extra benefits!

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The extra amount the state will pay does not depend on your actual receipts. They have a flat-fee amount that they will assign to you depending on the exact diet that you require.

The state has provided the following table to help you figure out how much you could receive through this allowance.

DietExtra Benefits Amount
Anti-Dumping Diet$42.15
Controlled Protein Diet (40-60 grams of protein, which requires special products)$281.00
Controlled Protein Diet (less than 40 grams, still requires special products)$351.25
Gluten-Free Diet$70.25
High Protein Diet (at least 80 grams per day)$70.25
High Residue Diet$56.20
Hypoglycemic Diet$42.15
Ketogenic Diet$70.25
Lactose-Free Diet$70.25
Low Cholesterol Diet$70.25
Pregnancy & Lactation Diet$98.35
Minnesota State

What happens if you qualify for more than one of these? For example, what if you are pregnant and lactose-free?

In that case, the state will authorize you for the highest amount of extra benefits that you are eligible for. If there are no overlaps between the diets, then they can add the total amount of all the diets. If you are prescribed two conflicting diets (such as a low-protein and a high-protein diet), then the state will require clarification from the doctor to decide which one you are actually eligible for.

Oregon

The Special Diet Allowance in Oregon has very strict eligibility criteria and it is not available to everyone who receives SNAP benefits and has a special diet. In fact, you have to be receiving benefits from SSI and Medicaid in order to get these benefits.

In order to be eligible for this program, you must be able to prove the following:

  • You must receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • You must have an adjusted income that is less than the OSIPM Medicaid income guidelines.
  • You must have a specific nutritional needs that requires you to adhere to a special diet.
  • You must be at risk of a life-threatening situation without the special diet.

A licensed dietician is required to provide written documentation that clearly states what food items have been removed or replaced in your diet, any special items that have been added, and the recommended quantity of each item.

You are also required to provide verification of the monthly costs associated with those changes. The verification must be provided in the form of receipts for those items.

The amount you receive will be calculated based on the cost of your new special diet, less the cost of the food that was replaced. For example, if your new diet costs $100 per week and your prior diet costs $75 per week, your extra benefits would be $25 per week. If the total cost of your new diet is over $300 per month, special authorization from the APD Medicaid Eligibility Unit is required.

What if my state doesn’t have a Special Diet Allowance?

Even if your state isn’t listed as having a Special Diet Allowance, there are other ways that you may be able to get help with the higher cost of your food.

Schools are required to help children.

In most areas, schools are required to provide substitutions for children who cannot eat certain things. For example, a child who cannot eat gluten must be provided with a gluten-free grain option so that their meals have the same nutritional composition as their peers.

However, this is only true if a doctor will provide documentation that the child cannot eat that food for medical reasons. Generally, the doctor must explain what the child cannot eat and why.

These substitutions may also be available during the summer through the Summer Meals Program as well.

Check your SNAP paperwork.

If you receive SNAP benefits, there may be some things you can do to get extra benefits. We have a list of tips here.

One of my favorite ways to increase SNAP benefits is by using the Medical Expense Deduction. This is an often-overlooked benefit that allows seniors and people with disabilities to get more food benefits. You will need to submit evidence of your out-of-pocket medical expenses, which can be tedious, but it can have a significant impact on the amount of benefits you receive.

Use these other food programs, too.

There are many different programs out there that can help you get free food.

These programs include:

We have a list of ways that you can get free food here.

Summary

There are a few states that offer a Special Diet Allowance, which can help you get more benefits if you have medically necessary dietary needs. This article outlines those programs and how to apply for them, and proposes alternatives for people who do not live in a participating state.