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Court finds federal regulation denying food stamps to aged, blind and disabled persons illegal

July 11, 2016 – U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of the Northern District of California, invalidating a 37-year-old U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation, ruled on July 1, 2016 that Californians with suspended SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits are entitled to receive SNAP (food stamp) assistance.

Hector Riojas, the plaintiff in Riojas v. Vilsak, was homeless and residing in Humboldt County. He received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) food benefits and subsequently applied for SSI disability benefits. SSI (Supplemental Security Income) provides support for aged, blind and disabled individuals who are poor. In California, SSI recipients also receive a small amount of money as a replacement for SNAP benefits and so are ineligible for SNAP.

Mr. Riojas was eventually granted SSI by the Social Security Administration but those payments were suspended when he began receiving additional income that made him ineligible for SSI. His income was still low-enough to qualify him for SNAP. Pursuant to the USDA regulation challenged in this lawsuit, Mr. Riojas was then terminated from food benefits and told to repay SNAP benefits he had received when the SSI was suspended – leaving him without food through either SSI or SNAP.

Mr. Riojas is represented by Legal Services of Northern California and Western Center.

View the press release here