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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income Americans with financial assistance to buy groceries, and many older Americans rely on it. However, only about a third of eligible seniors participate in the program, perhaps from a mistaken understanding of who is eligible and how much assistance is available. Seniors need to know about SNAP’s deductions for medical expenses.

SNAP makes sense for many New York seniors, especially because the state allows individuals to have savings and still qualify for benefits. A household with an older adult or a disabled person must have a net income of 100 percent or less of the federal poverty level. In 2013, that is $11,172 for a single person. However, net income is gross income minus all allowable deductions. There is a standard deduction for each household, plus deductions for housing, utilities and medical costs. Seniors can often benefit greatly from the medical deduction.

Fifty-five percent seniors that are eligible for SNAP could also take the medical deduction, but only about 14 percent do. The medical deduction is for households with a person 60 years of age or older or a person with a disability. Any medical expenses above $35 per month may be deducted, as long as they were not covered by insurance or paid by someone else. There is no cap on the deduction. Deductions may include medical or dental care, hospitalization or nursing home care, health insurance costs, medical devices, home health care and prescription medicine.

SNAP benefits are provided with an electronic benefits card similar to an ATM or debit card.To apply for SNAP benefits in New York, visit https://mybenefits.ny.gov.

For more information about our elder law services, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com.