The county has an active program to combat the problem of "welfare fraud" in its various forms. The county's enforcement program, according to human services department figures, collected $281,000 in mistaken and fraudulent overpayments in 2011.
Of that amount, the county was allowed to keep $56,000 or 20 percent of the total, the department reports. The county collects another $46,000 in "fraud enforcement incentives" from government sources.
The county commissioners heard a report on the enforcement program during a work session on April 23. The county's fraud investigator, Paul Atchley, outlined the various means available for investigating and collecting fraudulent payments. Atchley has been with the county for 22 years.
During one period of activity in which 49 cases were referred to his office, Atchley said that 20 of them were determined to be violations. Of the others, 14 were unfounded or unverifiable, 11 were still under investigation, and the remainder were "pending."
Most of the leads for investigation come from referrals to the HHS office. Sometimes a routine government report on benefits being received can be a tip-off.
An administrative hearing or court proceeding is required to determine the outcome of a fraud investigation if the individuals involved don't agree with the investigator's findings. In past, criminal charges have been brought and jail time handed out for violations, said Chuck Lemoine, HHS director.
People found to commit multiple frauds can end up losing their benefits for life. A parent's violation is never enforced against a child's benefit, Atchley said.
Selling food stamps for cash was one of the commonest forms of food stamp fraud under the old coupon system. The newer electronic forms of providing food stamp benefits, however, have not stopped the problem of fraud. A determined individual can find ways to short circuit the new system. Atchley said that some of the benefit programs accessed by the new EBT cards actually make cash payouts at a ATM machines, though the food stamp program is not one that does.
Food stamp payments in Delta County have doubled since 2008 and now total over $5 million annually. There is resistance to changes in the national food stamp program from food processors and vendors who might see a decrease in revenue from tighter rules, Lemoine explained.
Atchley said there is now a liberalization of the food stamp program rules taking place in an apparent attempt by federal administrators to lessen the incidence of food stamp fraud. It's like to decreasing the number of speeding tickets by raising the speed limits, he said.blog comments powered by Disqus