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You Could Lose Food Stamps Forever with an Intentional Program Violation

You Could Lose Food Stamps Forever with an Intentional Program Violation

If you commit an Intentional Program Violation with food stamps, you could lose those benefits for a long time. The consequences range from 12-month suspensions to lifetime bans. This is something every EBT user needs to be aware of!

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In this post, we will review what constitutes an Intentional Program Violation and what you need to do if you are accused of committing one.

What is an Intentional Program Violation?

There are many different ways that SNAP users can commit Intentional Program Violations, including:

  • False Information on Application: Perhaps the most common way is providing false information on your SNAP application. For instance, let’s say someone claims they are unemployed when they actually have a job, or they underreport their income to receive higher benefits. This deliberate misrepresentation of circumstances to gain additional benefits is a serious violation.
  • Selling SNAP Benefits for Cash: This is known as trafficking and it’s a major offense. Imagine someone selling their EBT card or SNAP benefits to get cash, or even trading them for something else like paying a bill. Not only is the person selling their benefits at risk, but the buyer can also face serious consequences.
  • Purchasing Non-Eligible Items: Using SNAP benefits to buy items that are not food, such as electronics, clothing, or other household goods, is a violation. We discussed this in depth in our post about the 2023 DoorDash glitch. Remember, SNAP is intended for food purchases only.
  • Using Someone Else’s EBT Card: This can happen if a person uses an EBT card that isn’t theirs without permission. For example, if John takes his friend’s EBT card and uses it to buy groceries for John, that’s a violation. It’s important to only use the EBT card if you are the authorized user.
  • Applying for Benefits in More Than One State: This is also known as double-dipping. If Sarah, who already receives SNAP benefits in Texas, moves to Florida and applies for benefits there without closing her Texas account, she’s committing a violation.

Remember – there are other circumstances that can also trigger a lifetime ban from the SNAP program as well. . Under federal SNAP rules, individuals convicted of certain types of felonies, including drug-related felonies, may face restrictions or disqualifications from receiving SNAP benefits. The specifics of these restrictions can vary based on state laws and the nature of the conviction.

These examples illustrate just a few ways how Intentional Program Violations can occur. The key takeaway here is the importance of honesty and integrity when dealing with SNAP benefits. 

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What are the consequences?

These violations can lead to severe consequences, including disqualification from the program, repayment of benefits received improperly and even legal action.

Disqualification from SNAP

The first consequence is disqualification from SNAP. The duration of disqualification varies depending on the severity and frequency of the violation. Usually, it goes like this:

  • 12 Month Suspension for the 1st Offense
  • 24 Month Suspension for the 2nd Offense
  • Lifetime Suspension for the 3rd Offense

In cases where an individual is involved in trafficking SNAP benefits – that is, illegally selling or trading them – for a total of $500 or more, the consequence is especially stern. Such an action leads to a permanent disqualification from the SNAP program upon the first violation. This underscores the program’s zero-tolerance policy towards trafficking. Do not sell your benefits. 

Making a false statement about one’s identity or place of residence in order to receive benefits in more than one location is another grave violation. If a person is found to have deliberately provided false information in this manner, they face a disqualification from the SNAP program for 10 years. This lengthy period of disqualification serves as a strong deterrent against attempting to defraud the system by claiming benefits in multiple jurisdictions. Don’t do that, either. 

Repayment of Benefits

Another consequence that violators face is the repayment of benefits. If benefits were received improperly, the individual may be required to repay the amount they were not entitled to. This repayment obligation can represent a significant financial burden, as it often involves returning large sums of money that the individual received over a period of misuse.

Criminal & Legal Charges

In some cases, you may even face legal action and criminal charges. Intentional Program Violations can lead to criminal prosecution, especially in cases involving fraud or trafficking of SNAP benefits. Such legal actions can result in criminal records, fines, and in severe cases, imprisonment. The legal consequences extend beyond the loss of benefits and can have long-lasting impacts on an individual’s life.

And of course, committing an IPV in the SNAP program can affect eligibility for other federal, state, or local assistance programs. This can have broader implications on an your overall ability to receive governmental support in other areas like housing, health care and other forms of assistance. 

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How to Avoid Intentional Program Violations

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to avoid Intentional Program Violations. After all, the keyword there is intentional. By simply adhering to the rules and guidelines of the SNAP program and using your benefits honestly and as intended, you can steer clear of these violations. 

Here’s are some tips:

  • Stay Informed: Regularly update yourself on the rules and eligible items under the SNAP program. Changes and updates can occur, and being informed is your first line of defense against unintentional violations. If you subscribe to our channel and watch our monthly EBT updates, it’s an easy way to stay informed. 
  • Report Changes Promptly: If there are changes in your income, employment status, household size, or any other factor that affects your eligibility, report these changes to your SNAP administrator as soon as possible. Honest communication is key.
  • Use Benefits Only for Eligible Items: Purchase only those items that are eligible under the SNAP program, which primarily includes food for your household. Avoid the temptation to use benefits for items that are obviously not eligible, even if it seems harmless or you see others doing it.
  • Don’t Sell or Trade Benefits: Never sell or trade your SNAP benefits for cash, other goods, or services. This is a clear violation and is considered trafficking, which is taken very seriously by the authorities.
  • Safeguard Your EBT Information: Treat your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and related information with the same care as you would a credit card. Don’t share it with others or let anyone else use it.

Remember, the purpose of the SNAP program is to provide nutritional assistance to those who need it. By using the program as it is intended, you’re not only following the law but also contributing to the integrity and sustainability of this vital support system. Mistakes can happen, but intentional misuse is a choice that can have serious repercussions. 

What to Do if You Get a Letter

If you’ve received a notice that you’re being charged with an IPV, don’t panic. The Center for Law and Social Policy has a great guide that can walk you through this. They say that you’ll receive several letters from the SNAP office that include a lot of different forms, including one form called a Waiver of Right to Administrative Disqualification Hearing. 

According to CLASP, you should NEVER sign that document without speaking to a lawyer first because it means that you are admitting to the IPV and giving up your right to a hearing.

A lot of states will try to push you into making that choice but it’s usually not in your best interest. At the hearing, the state agency has to prove that you violated the rules on purpose. If you just sign the waiver and admit it, they don’t have to prove their case – it makes their job easier but it doesn’t help you at all. 

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If you receive an IPV notice, you need to contact a legal aid representative in your area right away. You can also reach out to the experts at CLASP for guidance. 

Relief Recap

Remember, the goal of SNAP is to provide nutritional support to those in need. Misusing this program not only risks your own access to these benefits but can also undermine the integrity of the system designed to help millions of Americans. By using SNAP benefits responsibly and within the guidelines, we can ensure that this program continues to serve as a lifeline for those who rely on it.