Verify Subscriber Eligibility

Lifeline carriers are required to confirm their customer's eligibility prior to enrolling them in the Lifeline Program.

Carriers can use one of three methods to comply with this requirement:

  1. Query Database: If the carrier has access to state or federal social services eligibility databases, they must first query it to determine the customer's eligibility for the Lifeline Program. In the absence of one, they must review eligibility documentation provided by the customer.
  2. State Checks Eligibility: If a state agency or administrator is responsible for determining Lifeline eligibility, and is in compliance with the streamlined list of eligibility programs (or requested a waiver), carriers may rely on their eligibility determination. Please review the Verification Processes by State for more detail.
  3. Customer Provides Proof: Review documentation to determine eligibility for new subscribers (if (1) the carrier does not have access to a state eligibility database and (2) the carrier, rather than a state agency or administrator, is responsible for establishing subscriber eligibility).

If carriers are reviewing documentation to determine customer eligibility, they must verify eligibility by income or program, and retain the required documentation.

The process for determining subscriber eligibility will change once your state begins using the National Verifier.

Customer Eligibility: By Income

A customer may be eligible for Lifeline-supported service if they have a household income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Visit the Income Eligibility and the Federal Poverty Guidelines pages to learn more, including income guidelines and acceptable forms of documentation.

Customer Eligibility: By Program

A customer is eligible for Lifeline-supported service if they participate in one of the qualifying programs. If the customer is enrolled in one of these programs, they likely have a benefit/program participation card or award letter, which they can use as proof of eligibility.

Current qualifying programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) Section 8
  • Veteran's Pension and Survivor Benefit

Customers residing on Tribal lands may also use eligibility documentation from these programs if their household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance,
  • Tribally-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),
  • Head Start, and
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Retired qualifying programs (Effective December 2, 2016):
Customers cannot use these programs to qualify for Lifeline unless their state was granted an eligibility waiver:

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)*
  • National School Lunch Program's (NSLP) free lunch program*
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)*

One Lifeline Benefit per Household

Carriers are required to take steps to ensure that they are not providing duplicate Lifeline-supported service to the same subscriber or household.

A household is anyone living at the same address who share income and household expenses. A household worksheet must be completed any time more than one subscriber at a single residential address receives Lifeline-supported service, or when a new customer applies for service at an address where there is already a customer receiving a Lifeline benefit.

Record-Keeping Requirements

The Lifeline Modernization Order requires carriers to follow certain procedures when verifying an applicant's eligibility. Read the checklist and compilation of record-keeping requirements related to verifying eligibility.

Starting February 17, 2016, carriers are required to retain documentation (for example, a copy of the customer's SNAP card) demonstrating subscriber eligibility (prior to February 17, 2016, carriers had to keep records of the data source used to verify eligibility, but could not retain copies of the documentation itself).

This documentation must be retained for as long as the subscriber receives Lifeline Program service from the carrier, and for at least three additional calendar years after their service ends.