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Maximizing SNAP Benefits—Getting Credit for Medical Expenses


When SNAP decides the amount of your benefit, they consider the size of your household, your income, and some of your expenses. They take expenses like housing, childcare, and medical expenses (for elderly and disabled people) into account when they look at your income by giving you a credit for certain necessary expenses. They subtract these credits, called “deductions,” from your income, so your “countable income” is lower. Once they have calculated your countable income, they compare it to your household size to determine your monthly SNAP benefit. Generally, the lower your countable income, the higher your benefit will be.

How do I know if I can deduct medical expenses?

You may be able to deduct medical expenses if:

  • You are age 60 or older

  • You receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • You receive disability benefits from Social Security (RSDI or SSDI)

If you qualify, you can deduct medical expenses that are more than $35 in a month.

What medical expenses can be deducted?

Medical expenses you can deduct include:

  • Medical and dental care
  • Hospitalization or outpatient treatment, nursing care, and nursing home care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Health and hospitalization insurance policy premiums
  • Medicare premiums paid by the household
  • Dentures, hearing aids, eyeglasses, and prosthetics
  • Securing and maintaining a specially trained service animal, including the cost of dog food and veterinarian bills
  • Reasonable costs of transportation and lodging to obtain medical treatment or service
  • Maintaining an attendant, homemaker, home health aide, child care services, or housekeeper, when necessary due to age, infirmity, or illness.

What expenses are not counted?

You can only count medical bills that are actually paid or due from you. If insurance or another agency is paying the cost, you can’t deduct that expense.

  • You can only deduct medical expenses for someone who is elderly or disabled, even if you live with other people and get SNAP benefits with them.
  • You can’t deduct the cost of medically prescribed marijuana.
  • You can’t deduct food even if you need a special diet due to a disability.

How are medical expenses counted?

For ongoing and recurring expenses, the amount you pay each month will be deducted monthly. For one-time expenses, like a hospitalization or eyeglasses, you can deduct the total expense in one month or you can spread the total over your recertification period. Which way is better for you depends on your income and other expenses. If you need help deciding which method to use, you can ask your caseworker what the difference would be for each method. You can also contact the LSNJLAWSM hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) or your regional Legal Services program.

What if I disagree with a decision about medical expenses?

If you think you are eligible for a medical deduction and the SNAP agency doesn’t agree, you can ask for a fair hearing.

How do I get a fair hearing?

  • Call the State Fair Hearings Hotline at 1-800-792-9773
  • Put it in writing. If you go to the agency office to ask for a hearing, you should still make your request in writing, keep a copy for yourself, and get a receipt. That way, you will have proof that you asked for the hearing.
  • Call the welfare office. Speak with your SNAP caseworker or with the Fair Hearing Liaison and tell them that you want a hearing. Make sure you get the name of the person you speak to and write it down. Ask them to send you a letter confirming that you asked for the hearing.

How much time do I have to ask for a fair hearing?

You have 90 days from the date of the Division of Social Services’ decision to ask for a fair hearing on a SNAP denial.

If you want your SNAP benefits to continue unchanged while you wait for a hearing, you must ask for a hearing within 15 days of the day you get notice of a change in your case. Make sure that you say that you want your benefits to continue, when you ask for the hearing. (If you lose your appeal you will have to pay the extra benefits back. Usually, the SNAP office will recoup this out of future benefits you receive until it is paid back.)

If you need help with your SNAP benefits, you can call LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJLAW (1-888-576-5529) for legal advice, information, and referral.​