AUGUSTA — James Wood isn’t happy with the way he found out his food stamps were cut.

The disabled Augusta veteran said all he received was a letter in the mail that notified him of a change in the amount.

As of today, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services letter indicates, his monthly food stamp allotment will be reduced from $116 to $65.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, however, announced late Thursday evening that the federal Department of Agriculture had agreed to a three-month stay of the cuts, while the decision to decrease the food stamp benefit is reviewed.

Nevertheless, the initial decision stung program recipients like Wood.

“It’s kind of heartless and cruel the way they’ve done it,” Wood said Wednesday. “They could have included a letter of explanation telling us why it went down and why everyone’s benefits didn’t get cut. I don’t know why we were the only ones selected, but it seems to be impacting disabled people and the elderly.”

According to Maine’s DHHS, 40,000 out of 121,000 households in Maine that receive food stamps would see an average benefit loss of $42 a month.

Spokesman John Martin said the reduction has to do with the annual review of benefits for each state that takes into account the cost of heating fuel. The “standard utility allowance” for fuel is calculated each year and is used to determine benefit levels for households.

Heat and utilities are part of the cost deductions people claim when they apply for food stamps, he said.

When fuel oil cost $4 a gallon in 2008, Martin said the state petitioned the USDA Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program and was granted a waiver that allowed Mainers to claim a higher deduction for heating fuel. The deduction increased from $530 to $700 a month.

“What that meant for people receiving food stamps is it gave them an increase benefit,” Martin said. “Every couple of years, that particular allowance … has to be reviewed by the federal government. When the oil prices went down, that changed the allotment amount back to $530 a month.”

The current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil is $2.59 per gallon.

Barbara VanBurgel, director of the DHHS Office of Integrated Access and Support, said the change to the standard utility allowance amount was used to determine benefits for all recipients — not just the elderly and disabled.

“Individuals on fixed incomes are the ones impacted most because (they claim) no additional expenses, no more earnings, they didn’t change their residency and no one moved into their houses,” she said. “When you’re in a fixed situation and you change any standard (allowance), it affects that person more directly. That’s why it appears like they were targeted.”

Wood, who said he depends on food stamps to make ends meet, said his groceries would be cut 43.9 percent and his total income, 4 percent.

“In the meantime, the lowering of the price of oil has not caused my rent — heat included — to go down, nor has any of my other expenses done anything but go up,” Wood said.

VanBurgel said all the “elements” for this reduction came quickly. The USDA didn’t notify the department until the end of August.

She said the standard utility allowance reduction wasn’t the only change in the calculation of benefits.

“There’s just no way we could go through 121,000 cases and put down for each person each specific element in their situation that caused the changes,” she said. “If you have an address change, now you have a rental change and child care and a different standard utility (value), all that makes a difference in the result. That’s why we encourage them to talk to their eligibility specialist.”

She said specialists’ names and phone numbers are included in the letters sent to recipients.