EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 16, 2013

Confusion about EBT card use for elders

Elder Q&A
Roseanne DeStefano

---- — Q: My elderly grandmother always does her shopping at a grocery store located right down the street from the elder housing where she lives. She was at the store getting food for the week and the clerk refused to accept her food stamp card. She had to pay cash for her groceries and is now very short on funds. I am going to reimburse her for the money but am trying to find out what happened and how to prevent this from occurring again in the future. Do you know anything about this?

A: Your grandmother is one of many individuals who have had the same experience recently. There has been considerable confusion both with consumers and retailers regarding some changes with EBT cards. The clerk’s denial of accepting the card was both an unfortunate incident and a situation of misinformation.

This past August the Massachusetts legislature passed a law which now requires approximately half of the state’s EBT card holders to get new cards with their photo within 12 months. The remainder of recipients are exempt from the new ruling including individuals over the age of 59, those with disabilities and victims of domestic violence. The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) makes the determination who is exempt...not retailers.

There are now 3 types of Massachusetts EBT cards being utilized. The first is the new photo EBT card issued to around 170 thousand SNAP households. The second is a Mass DTA card without a photo which is being issued to new applicants exempt from the photo requirement. The third is the Bay State Access card which remains in effect for many DTA households. These blue cards were only deactivated for those individuals who are now required to have a photo.

The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) has utilized photos available through the Registry of Motor Vehicles to process the new EBT photo cards which were mailed out the end of November. Over the next few months DTA will be contacting the remaining individuals in this category to schedule a photo session at their local DTA office. The only older version EBT cards that were deactivated were for those individuals who received their photo cards.

Commercial businesses have received clarification of the guidelines and hopefully this will rectify the situation your grandmother and others encountered. We want to emphasize older adults and others using the original Bay State Cards no action is required on their part unless for some unknown reason they receive notification from the DTA. If a question arises consumers should contact the EBT Customer Service Number at 1-800-997-2555.

Retailers who accept EBT cards are prohibited by law from in any way discriminating against SNAP recipients unless they apply the same guidelines to those customers using debit or credit cards.

Appreciation is extended to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute for providing clarification on this subject.

For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890. Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.