SNAP Violation Letter

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How to Handle a SNAP Violation Letter

 

If your grocery store is licensed to accept EBT, then you should be in the market for a SNAP Violation Defense Attorney. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will send out snap Violation Letter in the event that they believe a EBT/SNAP participant has violated the regulations. In the letter, the Department will charge you with any number of violations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  They may have also attached a stack of pages to the back of your snap Violation Letter that detail hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions which they believe to be evidence of any of several categories of snap violations.

 

What you should do right after receiving a snap Violation Letter is call our offices for a free consultation at (813) 228-0658.  A shop proprietor only has TEN (10) days to respond to the charge letter.  If that time passes and you don’t respond, then the government is likely to suspend or revoke your ability to accept EBT.

 

For you to understand exactly what a SNAP Violation letter is charging you with, it’s important to understand what The snap Program is, and how it operates.

 

The snap program

snap is short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s purpose is to  provide participants with a set value of monetary food benefits every month.  These benefits are disbursed through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) transaction card that resembles and works similarly to a traditional debit card. There are, however, a few extremely important distinctions as follows:

  1. The snap benefits on an EBT card are not intended for general use and spending, and 
  2. They are not for use in cash-back services.

 

The EBT cards replaced the Food Stamps as the method of disbursing nutrition assistance to benefit recipients in the late 1990’s.  They are distributed by the state in which the snap participant resides.  Though the program appears to be governed uniquely in every state, it is really administered on a national level by the United States Government and simply implemented individually by the state governments.

 

The SNAP program, and the benefits associated with it, are governed by both the United States Code (7 U.S.C. Chapter 51) and by the Code of Federal Regulations (7 C.F.R. §278).  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) is the agency that enforces the rules and runs the program in general.

 

What constitutes a snap Violation?

A snap Violation has taken place when an licensed grocer violates any of the following rules:

 

  • If the offence of snap benefits trafficking has been committed.  The term “trafficking” is broad, but roughly it refers to fraudulently accepting, or otherwise stealing the benefits;
  • If the store has accepted SNAP benefits as payment for non-food grocery items like alcohol, tobacco, or other goods that do not qualify under the program;
  • Store staff members accept SNAP benefits from an unauthorized person that is not legally entitled to use the benefits;
  • If the store’s owner, manager or staff knowingly and intentionally falsified information on the store’s application to get licensed in the EBT benefits program;
  • If the store’s total snap redemptions for a specified period of time exceeds its food sales over the same period;
  • If anyone employed at the grocery store maintained a credit or a tab for a customer in exchange for EBT benefits; and
  • Under certain circumstances, if the store has been disqualified from participation in the WIC program, then the USDA may disqualify it also from SNAP.

 

How We Defend Against a snap Violation Letter

We have handled a myriad types of snap Violation Defense cases for our clients, and we have experience in all three phases of a snap Violation action that your store may be faced with:

 

Phase 1: The Charge Letter.  The first step in an action by the USDA to revoke your store’s EBT license is the snap Violation Letter.  This may come with or without prior warnings, and can appear at any moment.  A Charge Letter can contain any number of different types of allegations, but the majority of them detail a series of factual allegations with attachments that show more details.  Your response to the snap Violation Letter must be remitted within ten (10) days of the date you receive it.  After you retain one of our lawyers, our office assumes responsibility for all communications with the USDA, for gathering all relevant evidence (as needed), and then the drafting and dispatching of a complete and accurate response to the USDA.

 

Phase 2: Administrative Appeal. In the event that, after reviewing your store’s answer to the snap Violation Letter, the USDA  maintains that a violation has occurred, then the Department will send out a second letter which outlines its decision to suspend or disqualify the store based upon the allegations laid out in the first letter.  Again, you have only 10 (ten) days to appeal this decision.  Not responding to the letter can result in the store being stuck with the USDA’s decision to suspend or disqualify the store from accepting EBT.  Once you hire us, our office will file the required paperwork with the USDA to let their Administrative Review Agency know that we intend to appeal the decision.  Our office will gather any additional evidence on your behalf that will strengthen your appeal, and we will draft the appellate brief with all of the evidence, case law, regulatory and federal code, and additional information that is appropriate to demonstrate that the initial decision was inaccurate.

 

Phase 3: Judicial Appeal.  The USDA might still refuse to overturn the first decision in the Administrative Review.  At that stage, what remains is for you to file a Judicial Review in the local Federal District Court. The Judicial Appeal operates like a routine court case in that we will have the opportunity to conduct discovery, file our motions and go to trial before a judge.  Our lawyers have handled a number of these cases in different states and, depending on what state your store is in, we can handle your case.