Responding to a USDA SNAP Violation Letter
As I discussed in Preventing a USDA SNAP Violation, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees violations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP). The USDA is specifically responsible for compiling what is called a Charge Letter, or a USDA SNAP Violation Letter. This letter is the formal document that the Department uses to place stores on notice of the charges against them. Usually, attached to the charge letter is the evidence that the USDA has compiled.
Some of these letters have written descriptions. These letters are the result of undercover investigations by officers. Other letters have lists of transactions and their dates. These violation letters are data-driven letters. This USDA SNAP violation letter is designed by law to provide the store with the opportunity to respond to the USDA’s allegation. Accordingly, your response is very important.
Contact Us Immediately After You Receive Your Charge Letter
There is a timeline inside of which the store must respond to the specific allegations set forth in the Charge Letter. The time limit is ten (10) days from the date the store (or the registrant) received the letter. If the store fails to respond to the letter, the store will be disqualified. By the time they send the Charge Letter, the USDA already believes the store has violated the rules.
So, you have ten (10) days from receiving the letter to save your store’s EBT. In order to fully respond, you have to submit a response in writing (usually much better than a telephone call). This letter should include a request for a Civil Money Penalty if you qualify, and an explanation for the transactions.
Civil Money Penalties
The store’s response can request a Civil Money Penalty be imposed in lieu of a disqualification. This is not an automatic fine. Furthermore, the store isn’t guaranteed to get a fine if it requests it. In the event the store seeks the imposition of a Civil Money Penalty rather than a disqualification, the Section Chief will consider:
- Has the store developed an effective compliance policy, which is in writing and in effect at the time that the alleged violation occurred?
- Can the store prove that the compliance policy was in existence and in effect prior to the occurrence of the alleged violations?
- Does the store have an instituted and effective training program to train the store’s employees on the acceptance of EBT, WIC and Food Stamp payments?
- Was the store’s ownership aware of, involved in or benefiting from the violations? Or, was the management aware of or involved in the violations?
Very few stores qualify for a civil money penalty. Typically, the Department issues fewer than ten (10) of these per year (out of thousands of cases). It’s easier to win your case than it is to receive a CMP.
Charge Letter Response
Your response to the Charge Letter will determine whether or not you keep EBT. It is the most important part of your case. Accordingly, your reply has to be handled thoroughly. It needs to provide specific responses and backup documentation. Without representation, it is extremely hard to win a SNAP violation case.
With this in mind, Metropolitan Law Group has a flat-fee structure that is designed to be affordable for your store. Our representation gives you the best opportunity to defend the store and keep your EBT. Furthermore, we offer free consultations. Our websites also have a plethora of information that you can use to learn more about the process. You can submit a request for a consultation online 24 hours a day. You can also call our offices to schedule a consultation at 1 (833) SNAP-LAW.
In truth, a violation on behalf of any store employee is a problem that is best prevented rather than defended. But, any store who faces a violation should seriously consider contacting an attorney immediately to make sure that a bad problem doesn’t grow into a insurmountable one.