Legal Counsel for SNAP & EBT Appeals
Has your store been suspended or permanently barred from accepting SNAP/EBT cards? Our attorneys specialize in arguing for proprietors of grocery stores who want to overturn an application denial, or reverse an EBT suspension or EBT disqualification and need to put in an EBT Appeal. That said, the moment a letter arrives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) saying that your application was denied, putting your business on a suspension from accepting EBT payments, or totally disqualifying your business from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you are given just a few days to put your EBT appeal in.
SNAP/EBT Appeal Matters
Not every initial suspension, disqualification or application denial is eligible for an appeal. Regardless of that fact, there are numerous circumstances under which an appeal is indeed meritted and can be had through the USDA Administrative Review Branch as follows:
Your EBT Retailer Application is Denied: In the event that you have applied for your grocery store to become a SNAP or EBT retailer and the United States Department of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) returned a denial of your application, applying for an appeal of that determination is often in your best interest. The USDA has multiple different reasons for denying a license application, but they improperly deny application from time to time on the basis of the past suspension of a family member, incorrect categorization of your business as an “ineligible firm”, or their perception of a lack of “business integrity and reputation”. Should your store’s application be denied for any of the above reasons, then a SNAP or EBT Appeal is a route you can consider. Reach out to us today to learn more.
You Get Suspended for Six or More Months: If your store has been suspended or disqualified for a SNAP Violation, and if that suspension is for six months or longer, please allow us to explore the details of your case in the short term before the suspension becomes fixed! Potential losses of revenue that befall most SNAP licensed businesses in the event of an EBT suspension can be badly damaging. A lengthy suspension may mean the end of your business. In this case, you have little choice but to appeal the decision. Get in touch with us today to get more information.
You Are Permanent Disqualification: Worst case scenario is when the USDA hands you a disqualification, which is unfortunately the most over-utilized option that the Food and Nutrition Service resorts to in the majority of the SNAP Violation letters they send out. Permanent disqualification translates to the fact that you personally, as the SNAP Applicant, will never again be permitted to own or operate a store, in any state, in which an EBT machine is in use. A permanent disqualification cannot be reversed unless you promptly appeal the decision. You should call our offices right away when you receive any letter containing allegations that you, your employees or your business engaged in SNAP trafficking, or otherwise threatening to permanently disqualify your store.
Levying of Civil Money Penalties: Have you been permanently disqualified and forsced to subsequently sell your store or close your business? If so, the USDA may add insult to injury by sending you a letter levying a maximum fine of $59,000 just for selling your business. They give you ten (10) days from the day you receive a letter from the Department indicating that they are seeking to impose the fine against you to file an appeal to their decision. Not appealing in a timely fashion leaves you open to the reality that the Department will charge the fine against you and may track you down for every cent of it.
SNAP Violation Letter: Here is The Appeal Process
For the most part, your right to a SNAP or EBT Appeal is governed by 7 CFR §279 and 7 USC §2023. This legislation lays out two separate appeals: an Administrative Appeal (which comes first) and a Judicial Appeal (which comes subsequent to the Administrative). When filing an Administrative Appeal, you need to get that lodged within ten (10) days of the arrival of the letter from the USDA, otherwise you effectively waive your rights. When your notice of appeal is sent to the Department, we will wait to receive a case number back from the Administrative Review Division for your case. On receiving your case number, we then bring together all of the information that we will need and distill it all into a full appellate brief, which can be lengthy at a whopping twenty or more pages in length, depending upon the details of your matter.
The next step is to submit your appellate brief to the Administrative Review Division. When they receive the brief there, an Administrative Review Officer will examine all the information that came from the Food and Nutrition Service and the documents that we furnished from our office, and they check those against the existing case law and regulatory legislation that we also sent in. They use all of this to come to a Final Agency Determination. This final determination can take weeks, sometimes months, depending on the depth and breadth of the situation, to recieve back from the FNS. Nevertheless, there are measures we can take to push your appeal through faster to help keep the damage to your business minimal. Upon completion of the Final Agency Determination, the report comes back to our office and the Food and Nutrition Service also gets a copy.
Handling a SNAP or EBT Appeal
As you can see, the SNAP appellate process is not so simple, and the Administrative Review Division takes no mercy on and lends no lenience to business owners who are not represented by qualified lawyers. In actuality, the appeals process can be rather protracted and tricky in light of the fact that there are very few opportunities to dispute evidence and reasoning that the Food and Nutrition Service lodged against a store. We most certainly suggest that even if you replied to your SNAP Violation Letter without any help, it is nonetheless in your best interests to retain counsel to handle your EBT appeal.