WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco) today re-introduced legislation to enhance veterans’ access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), with the support of lead original cosponsors Congressman Juan Vargas (CA) and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN). The Disabled Veterans Nutrition Fairness Act of 2013 will enable veterans to file for SNAP benefits under the status of disabled while their disability claims are pending at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“There are 1.5 million veterans who are at risk of homelessness, yet, the VA backlog is still at nearly 900,000 pending disability claims, and more than 600,000 of those claims have been in the system for more than 125 days. That is simply unacceptable,” Speier said. “My bill will ensure that wounded veterans stuck in the backlog will not have to suffer from being denied other critical services, such as nutrition assistance, while they await determination.

“Increasing nutrition assistance is a small fix to a large problem. But it is a step in the right direction as more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments that handicap their transition into civilian life. SNAP is designed to help those on the brink of poverty and it is nothing short of our patriotic duty to ensure that our nation’s heroes are able to access SNAP benefits in a timely manner,” Speier concluded.

Currently, disabled veterans are not considered disabled for the purposes of the SNAP program unless they are receiving veterans’ disability benefits and are rated by the VA as having a service or non-service connected disability that is total or debilitating. Key advantages for filing with this status include being able to deduct excess medical expenses and redeem benefits at certain facilities that serve prepared meals. Both are critical for veterans who suffer from a host of war-related mental and physical injuries.

Veterans who file their claims in Oakland, Los Angeles, or Seattle are waiting an average of 320 days for the VA to process their disability claims. The bill enables these veterans to apply for SNAP benefits as “disabled,” but it does not make them automatically eligible for the program. Each SNAP applicant will still be required to pass the net income test based on 100 percent of the federal poverty level.