Veterans, Military Families Among Those Using Food Stamps

Although there is a perception among some members of the public that people who use food stamps are “deadbeats,” the truth is often far different. What many people do not know about food stamps, now called the SNAP program, is that numerous young military families and veterans are dependent on food stamps, as well as retirees, the disabled, hard working families in low paying jobs and some eligible unemployed people in job training programs.

food-stamps - food stamps

Veterans, military families, disabled people and the elderly are among those eligible for food stamps. (

SNAP is the program that was formerly known as food stamps.   In some highly publicized cases, people have been confronted and publicly humiliated while paying for groceries with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP) while checking out in grocery stores.

What are the Income Restrictions on Food Stamps?

While the income limits are adjusted each year, people need to have a very low income in order to qualify for food stamps.  In 2015, a single person had to have an income under $15,180 in order to qualify for food stamps; a family of four had to stay under an income threshold of $31,008.  Many members of the military with dependents earn less than the threshold when they first enter the service, and remain eligible for SNAP until they have received a couple of promotions.

How Much Money is Earned by Members of the Military?

When first entering the service, a member of the military can earn as little as $19,000. With their extra family allowance, which helps with food and housing, the income can rise to between $30,000 and $40,000.  However, if the spouse does not work and there are several children at home, a young couple can easily qualify for food stamps and WIC benefits until the service member begins to earn more.

How Many Military Families Use Food Stamps?

No records are kept of the specific number of military personnel who use food stamps to help support their families.  However, it is known that in 2014, over $84 million worth of food stamps were used in military commissaries.  Unfortunately, there is no information on the value of food stamps used by military families in local grocery stores, which often occurs when military families live in off-base housing or there is not a commissary nearby.

How Many Veterans Use Food Stamps?

Active members of the military are not the only people who qualify for food stamps.  According to the USDA, which administers the food stamp program, they estimate that about 7 percent of all veterans, over 1.5 million people, receive SNAP benefits (food stamps).

Who Else Benefits from Food Stamps?

Millions of Social Security recipients, disabled people, the unemployed and minimum wage workers also qualify for SNAP.

The average recipient of Social Security receives about $1,335 a month or $16,020 a year.  There are 39.5 million retirees receiving Social Security benefits and almost one-half of them qualify for SNAP if they do not have other sources of income to supplement their Social Security.    After a retiree begins receiving their Social Security benefits, many of them are also in a position where they need to apply for food stamps and other government aid programs, such as housing assistance.

The average income for disabled people is even lower than that of a Social Security recipient.  There are approximately 9 million disabled workers in America receiving an average benefit of $1,165 a month or $13,980 a year.  About half of the disabled are eligible for SNAP.

Workers who earn very low wages can sometimes qualify for SNAP, even if they are working full-time, especially in those states where the minimum wage is between $7.25 and $8 a hour.  In some cases, this has caused outrage against the employers rather than the employees who must rely on food stamps to supplement their income.

The unemployed are also eligible for the SNAP (food stamp) program, but they must be seeking employment and meet other criteria.  Contrary to popular public opinion, they cannot just be lying around doing nothing.  Here are the exact requirements from the federal government’s USDA website:

“In general, people must meet work requirements in order to be eligible for SNAP.  These work requirements include registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours, taking a job if offered, and participating in employment and training programs assigned by the State.  Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program.  In addition, able bodied adults without dependents are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits for more than 3 months in a 36-month period.”

The work requirements are very stringent and people can lose their food stamps if they don’t meet them:

How Much Does the Food Stamp Program Cost The Average Worker?

The average worker earning about $50,000 a year in the United States has about $0.10 cents a day in taxes go towards the category of “food and nutrition assistance,” or a total of about $36.82 a year.  Not all of that goes towards the SNAP or food stamp program.  The money also funds the federal school lunch program and WIC … a supplemental food program for Women, Infants and Children.

The SNAP program is not charity, but a government benefit that is used by millions of Americans who are currently serving in the military or served in the past and are now military veterans.  The benefit also provides assistance to retired low-income Americans, the disabled, and the unemployed who are actively looking for work and participate in employment and training programs.

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