SNAP & EBT Appeal Representation
Has your store been suspended or permanently disqualified from accepting SNAP benefits? Our office specializes in helping stores with an EBT Appeal to overturn application denials, EBT suspensions and EBT disqualifications. However, once you receive a letter from the United States Department of Agriculture denying your application, suspending your store from accepting EBT, or altogether disqualifying your store from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, you have only days to file your EBT appeal.
Types of Cases for an SNAP or EBT Appeal
Not every initial suspension, disqualification or application denial warrants an appeal. However, there are a number of circumstances which almost always merit an appeal through the USDA Administrative Review Branch:
- Denial of EBT Retailer Application: If your store has applied to be a SNAP or EBT retailer and the United States Department of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Service has denied your application, an appeal of that decision is usually in your store’s best interest. The USDA will deny applications for several different reasons, but will on occasion improperly deny applications based upon the prior suspension of a family member, a mis-categorization of your store as an “ineligible firm”, or a lack of “business integrity and reputation”. If your store has been denied for any of these reasons, a SNAP or EBT Appeal is something you should consider. Contact us today to learn more.
- Suspensions of Six Months or More: Has your store been suspended or disqualified for a SNAP Violation? If your suspension is for six months or more, call us to evaluate your case before the suspension becomes fixed! The loss of revenue that most businesses suffer from an EBT suspension is severe. A long suspension may put your store out of business and leave you with little choice but to appeal the decision. Contact us to learn more today.
- Permanent Disqualification: The most severe punishment that the USDA hands out also tends to be the most over-utilized option that the Food and Nutrition Service turns to for most SNAP Violation letters. A permanent disqualification means that you personally, as the SNAP Applicant, may not ever again own or operate a store, in any state, that involves an EBT machine. The permanent disqualification cannot be undone unless you appeal the matter immediately. You should contact our offices immediately upon receiving any letter accusing you, your staff or your firm of trafficking, or otherwise seeking a permanent disqualification. Contact us today to learn more.
- Imposition of Civil Money Penalties: If you have been permanently disqualified and subsequently sell your store or close your business, the USDA may send you a letter imposing a fine of not more than $59,000 for selling your business. This fine is appealable within ten days of receiving a letter from the Department indicating that they are seeking to impose the fine against you. If you fail to appeal the matter, then the Department will levy the fine against you and may pursue you for every dollar.
The Appeal Process
Generally speaking, your appeal rights for a SNAP or EBT Appeal are governed by 7 CFR §279 and 7 USC §2023, which provide two separate appeals: a Administrative Appeal (which comes first) and a Judicial Appeal (which comes subsequent to the Administrative process). The Administrative Appeal must be filed within ten (10) days of receiving the letter from the USDA or your rights will be waived. After the notice of appeal is sent to the Department, we wait to receive a case number from the Administrative Review Division. Once that number is received, we will compile all of the information that we need into a full appellate brief, which can be twenty or more pages in length depending upon the circumstances of your case.
The appellate brief is submitted to the Administrative Review Division. An Administrative Review Officer will look through the information provided by the Food and Nutrition Service, the information provided by our office and compare those with the case law and regulatory law we present to make a Final Agency Determination. The final determination can take weeks or months (depending on the circumstances) to complete. However, we can help push your appeal more quickly to help minimize the damage to your store. Once the Administrative Review Division has completed the Final Agency Determination, the report is issued to our office and to the Food and Nutrition Service.
How to Handle a SNAP or EBT Appeal
The appellate process is not a simple one and the Administrative Review Division does not make the process any easier on store owners who are unrepresented by counsel. The actual appeal process can be very difficult because there are few opportunities to rebut the evidence and the argument presented by the Food and Nutrition Service. As such, we recommend that even if you answered your SNAP Violation Letter on your own, it would probably be in your best interests to retain counsel to handle your appeal.