Verification and Documentation

All eligibility criteria must be verified before the household is determined to be eligible to receive a SNAP benefit. Even if the SNAP worker is sure the information is true, they must obtain verification for the file. 

The SNAP office should only ask a household to verify their present circumstances and should only use verification to assess if the household is currently eligible. 

The SNAP office can gain verification from:

  • Documents provided by the applicant(s)
  • Collateral contacts
  • Computer matches
  • Home visits

The documentation requirements checklist (LDSS-2642) includes each eligibility criterion and acceptable forms of verification. 

One document may serve as verification for more than one eligibility criterion. For example, a birth certificate can serve as verification of identity, date of birth, and citizenship. They are divided into primary and secondary verification categories, but SNAP does not differentiate between primary and secondary verification, so any form of acceptable verification in OTDA’s listing is acceptable for SNAP. 

If an applicant has tried to get a form of documentation and is unable to, then the caseworker is obligated to assist, including paying necessary fees. If the needed documentation is simply unavailable, the worker must find some other way to verify the eligibility criteria. 

Note: It is easiest to get an application accepted promptly if the most common forms of documentation are provided.

Documents Provided by Applicants

Reference Documents

Any reasonable form of documentation must be accepted, and acceptable verification is not limited to any single type of document. Applicants should provide the SNAP office with the following: rent or mortgage payment receipts, telephone and utility bills, child care expense receipts, pay stubs and verification of identity and address.

Households can upload documentation to the SNAP office using:

See a list of upstate counties that are using NYDocSubmit. The NYDocSubmit Quick Reference Card includes information about submitting document images, available languages, types of documents that can be submitted and more.

SNAP offices should issue documentation receipts to all SNAP applicants and recipients when they deliver documents in person to the SNAP office. This is true even if the SNAP office has a drop box. The LDSS-4847 is provided to SNAP offices as a template receipt, and OTDA has provided a list of items that should appear on any receipt for documentation provided by a SNAP office.

Reference Documents

Collateral Contacts

Collateral Contact: a person outside the applicant’s household who provides verbal confirmation of the household’s circumstances.

The SNAP office will use a collateral contact as a substitute for written verification only in instances when written documentation is unavailable or inadequate. The office will call the collateral contact directly for information to support what the household has reported.

For example, the SNAP office might call the landlord or neighbors to confirm the applicant’s address and household composition.

The SNAP worker must:

  • Obtain the information in writing, over the telephone, or in person from acceptable collateral contacts provided by the applicant. If the applicant does not give the SNAP office an acceptable contact person, the SNAP office will identify a person to contact.
  • Obtain the applicant’s permission to disclose household information to a collateral contact. When the SNAP office makes collateral contact, it is inadvertently letting that person know that the applicant’s household is applying for some type of benefit.
  • Give the applicant a chance to verify information in some other way or to withdraw their application if they do not want a person selected by the SNAP office contacted.

Home Visits

The SNAP office should conduct a home visit only if it cannot verify household eligibility criteria through documentation or collateral contacts. Applicants do not have to let workers visit their homes, but the SNAP office can deny the application if it cannot verify the household’s eligibility.

Computer Matches for Verification

Reference Documents

The SNAP office can obtain information from:

  • Computer systems of other public benefit programs
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • Some banks
  • NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Tax collectors
  • Other agencies and organizations that may have records about people’s wages, benefit checks, addresses, and other factors that affect SNAP eligibility

The SNAP office usually will not tell the applicant when it is checking information in this way. If the office gets information that affects the SNAP case, it will typically contact the household to verify the information or refer the case to an internal investigation unit.

Reference Documents

Computer Matches Involving NYC Veterans Only

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OTDA matches a quarterly Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) file from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) against NYC HRA clients and applicants in WMS. This match is done to identify veterans who may be eligible for, but unaware of, veteran-related healthcare, counseling and employment services. When appropriate, eligible veterans and their families will be referred to those services in place of receiving TANF, SNAP or other public benefits.

Reference Documents

Necessary Verification

SNAP rules require that the SNAP worker get proof of the following:

  • Identity of applicant—If an authorized representative applies in place of an applicant, the SNAP office must verify both the identity of the authorized representative and the applicant. Identity is the only necessary verification for households eligible for expedited processing.
  • Household size—Verification can be obtained from a collateral contact such as a landlord or other people not related to the family. Other readily available documentation is also acceptable including: school district reports, Housing Authority Section 8 information, or any other documents that can be used to prove the size of the family applying for SNAP.
  • Age—The household must provide the date of birth for all applying household members. The household has until the next recertification to provide verification of dates of birth. Acceptable means of documentation include: birth certificates, school records or social security number (SSN) validation. (See below.)
  • Non-citizenship status (also referred to as Alien Status by OTDA)— Anyone in the household who is applying for SNAP and is not a U.S. citizen must provide proof of their immigration status. The SNAP office will verify the claimed legal status and any immigration documents submitted with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The SNAP office will only verify USCIS status for those household members who submit proof of their immigration status. Any non-citizen household members who do not submit proof of their immigration status (such as undocumented non-citizens) will be excluded from the household for SNAP purposes, but the rest of the household can still receive SNAP benefits.
  • Social security numbers (SSNs)—Everyone in the household must provide the SNAP office with a social security number. In New York State, eligibility workers verify SSNs directly with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Therefore, individuals do not have to provide proof of their SSN unless the number they provide to the SNAP office does not match the SSA’s records or cannot be verified.
  • Income and resources—Applicants must provide pay stubs and bank records to the SNAP office to verify their earned/unearned income and resources if applicable.
  • Residence in the county—The SNAP office does not have to verify where the applicant lives if it is not reasonably possible to get verification. For example: the applicant recently moved to the area, is homeless, or is a migrant farm worker and cannot get verification easily.

Homeless SNAP applicants are exempt from the residency verification. They do not need a permanent address to apply, and can use the address of an authorized representative, a community organization (ex: shelter, soup kitchen), or the local SNAP office as an acceptable mailing address. See GIS 13TA/DC043 for more information on documentation requirements for homeless youth.

The following documents are used for budgeting only, not eligibility determinations:

  • Shelter and utility costs
  • Childcare and child support costs being deducted in the budgeting process
  • Medical expenses for elderly (60 years of age and older) and applicants who meet the SNAP definition for disabled
  • Disability—for special budgeting rules applicable to disabled people or those who are exempt from work activities due to a disability

Note: If verification of an item used only for budgeting a deduction is not available, the case can still be opened and budgeted without the deduction; however, the household may get a smaller benefit than it would have if the item had been verified.

Case Example:
If the household does not have verification of childcare costs, the budget can be calculated without the child care deduction. When the household provides documentation for the child care expense, they might get an increase in their SNAP benefit based on the new budget with the deduction.

Verification of Questionable Information

Questionable information: any information on the application that is inconsistent with:

  • Statements made by the applicant
  • Other information on the present application or previous ones
  • Information received by the caseworker

SNAP applicants should be prepared to verify as many facts as possible and to explain any unusual household circumstances in the initial interview. The SNAP office will ask for verification of any information that it finds questionable. These requests, provided in writing, should list all required information and the date by which the household should provide that information. Such requests, and the guidelines upon which they are based, must not discriminate based on race, religion, ethnic background, or national origin.

The following items shall only be verified if questionable:

  • Citizenship
  • Household composition
  • Whether household members purchase and prepare meals together or separately

Front End Detection Systems

Reference Documents

Front End Detection System (FEDS) program: an anti-fraud measure utilized by New York State that conducts investigations of applications that appear to have questionable circumstances. All local FEDS plans must be approved by OTDA.

For cash assistance purposes: All counties are required to operate a FEDS program.

For SNAP-only cases: The program is optional. New York City does not have a SNAP-only FEDS plan; about two-thirds of counties throughout the state do.

Caseworkers may only refer those cases that meet specific criteria spelled out in the county’s FEDS plan, and only after the household has first been given an opportunity to explain their situation.

What happens when there is a FEDS referral:
Typically, an LDSS investigator visits the applicant at their home or asks the household to appear for an in-office interview. However, for SNAP purposes, there is no obligation on the part of the household to meet with the investigator.

If a household fails to attend a FEDS interview:
That absence can not be used as a reason to deny the SNAP application and should not delay the normal application process. The investigator should continue without the household’s cooperation and forward their report to the eligibility worker. The worker will then consider the information in the FEDS report before making a final decision on the household’s application.

See 05-ADM-08 for a listing of the criteria, called indicators, that can trigger a FEDS referral.

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Households Without Social Security Numbers

Reference Documents

Every person in a household applying for SNAP must provide the SNAP office with his or her social security number (SSN). If a household member does not have an SSN, they must apply for one before they can receive SNAP benefits unless they have “good cause.”

Good Cause: an applicant has tried to apply for a social security number but has not yet received it. For example, an applicant may have good cause if the social security office will not accept the application because the applicant is waiting for a replacement copy of a lost birth certificate.

If an applicant applies for an SSN, the receipt from the SSA showing that they have applied satisfies the requirement.

Applicants who do not give the SNAP office their SSN or provide proof that they have applied for one, or do not have good cause for not applying for an SSN, cannot receive SNAP benefits. However, the rest of the household members can proceed with the application without that household member. The excluded household member will be treated as an ineligible non-citizen for budgeting purposes.

As soon as the household member qualifies (i.e. provides proof they have applied for an SSN), they will be added as a member of that SNAP case.

Reference Documents

Households With Undocumented Non-Citizens

Undocumented non-citizens: individuals who cannot verify their immigration status. Undocumented non-citizens are not eligible for SNAP benefits.

When a household contains a member who cannot provide immigration verification, the SNAP office:

  • Must continue to process the application for the remaining household members;
  • Must not report anyone to USCIS. A threat by the SNAP office to contact USCIS to verify immigration status is a violation of the non-citizen’s civil rights;
  • Can report a non-citizen to OTDA if presented with proof that the person is illegally in the country (deportation orders).

If the ineligible non-citizen is someone who would otherwise have to be part of the SNAP household (for example, the parent of minor children in the household), their income must be reported because a pro-rata portion will count in determining the amount of SNAP benefits for which the rest of the family is eligible.

More information on budgeting for this type of household can be found in Advanced Budgeting.