For many people, a personal injury settlement is necessary to cover medical expenses and lost income. An unexpected injury could severely impact a person’s life, physically, mentally, and financially. However, how does a large personal injury settlement impact a person or family that was struggling economically? If you were receiving government assistance, such as Food Stamps, would a large windfall impact your benefits?
Some government benefits are based on age or disability. If these were funded through your work history, a personal injury settlement should not affect your benefits. However, when the financial assistance is need-based, a financial windfall could adversely impact your benefits. If you receive a large personal injury award or insurance settlement, your Food Stamps could be suspended or terminated.
At the Reiff Law Firm, our team of Philadelphia personal injury lawyers understand the importance of benefits programs to a family’s welfare. However, our office also sees the importance of fighting for the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to another’s negligence, you should be compensated for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. Call our law offices at (215) 709-6940 to discuss your options during a free consultation.
The SNAP Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Commonly referred to as Food Stamps in the past, the program provides food benefits, such as access to healthy food and preparation education to qualifying individuals and families. Recipients are provided funds through an authorized electronic card that is accepted in approved stores.
Through the SNAP program, millions of needy recipients have access to healthy dietary choices and nutrition educators. Various local organizations provide important information regarding the program, including how to apply for benefits.
To be eligible for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania, you must be a resident of the commonwealth and meet one of the requirements listed below.
- Your current combined savings and checking account is below $2,001, or
- Your current combined savings and checking account is below $3,001, and you live with a person over 60 or a person with a disability, such as a child, parent, or yourself.
Additionally, there is a maximum annual household income amount based on the size of your household. Contact our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers for the current income limits.
Personal Injury Settlements and Federal Government Benefits
Whether your benefits will be impacted by a personal injury settlement depend on the type of benefits you are receiving. In some cases, your eligibility for governments assistance will not be adversely impacted by a personal injury award. For programs based on your work history, such as Social Security Disability Insurance or Medicare, a large lump sum windfall will not affect your benefits.
However, if your benefits are based on financial need, a large settlement could negatively affect your benefits, including a temporary lapse or termination of financial assistance.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) falls under this category. This program provides monthly financial assistance to the elderly, disabled, and blind. Unfortunately, SNAP benefits, which are also based on economic need, are included in this category as well. Our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers will thoroughly review your benefits before filing a personal injury claim.
Accepting a large lump sum payment from a personal injury case that results in exceeding the specific government benefit program’s income and resource limits could likely cause you to lose your needs-based government assistance benefits for a period of time. Similarly, if you give away or donate part of your settlement proceeds, it may also result in a loss of your SSI or Medicaid benefits for some time. In some situations, the government may also have the right to seek reimbursement for any benefits you have received.
Special Needs Trusts and Personal Injury Settlements
As stated above, if you receive a large settlement award in a personal injury case, it will likely impact your SNAP benefits. In Pennsylvania, your resources are considered when determining if you are eligible for public assistance. If a lump sum windfall is more than your calculated standard of need, you will not be eligible for your benefits. Therefore, a successful personal injury lawsuit could disqualify you for SNAP benefits for a period of time.
How long your benefits will be suspended or whether they will be terminated will depend on your settlement award. You could be eligible for benefits in a matter of months if the funds you received are properly spent. Additionally, if you suffered a mental or physical disability, you could place your settlement into a “special needs trust.” Under the provisions of a trust, a beneficiary would only have access to the proceeds of the settlement for very specific household necessities. A special needs trust might allow you to remain eligible for SNAP benefits even though you prevailed in a personal injury claim. Our Berks County personal injury lawyers will review your specific circumstances to determine if a special needs trust is a viable option.
Contract Our Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorneys if You Have Questions Regarding Your Settlement and Your Food Stamps
Food stamps are a vital part of many households’ monthly income. However, the fear of losing them should not be a deterrent to filing a personal injury claim. Depending on the severity of your injury, an insurance settlement or jury award could be necessary for paying medical bills and moving forward. In nearly every case, the benefits of a windfall settlement outweigh the benefits of Food Stamps. Nonetheless, there are steps our Bethlehem personal injury lawyers might be able to take to allow you to protect both. Call (215) 709-6940 to discuss your options with an attorney from the Reiff Law Firm.