Waste, Fraud and Abuse in our Government’s Welfare Programs
May 14, 2012
The1990’s were full of stories about “Welfare Queens,” but appears that efforts toreform our nation’s welfare programs have not been fully effective. Fromoverpayments, to gaming the system, it appears these programs and the way theyare administrated, are ripe for investigation.
TheSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) still is fraught with waste, fraud,and abuse. The program, which provides financial assistance for food purchasing to low-and no-income people and families living in the U.S. is administered by the Foodand Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but benefits aredistributed by the individual U.S. states. The number of those receivingbenefits from this program rose by roughly 14.7 million under GeorgeW. Bush’s administration and has risen an additional 14.2 million under PresidentBarack Obama.
Along with the millions ofnew recipients has come billions of dollars in overpayments. Of the total $2.19billion in payment errors in fiscal year 2009, $1.8 billion, or about 82percent, were overpayments. Overpayments occur when eligible persons areprovided more than they are entitled to receive or when ineligible persons areprovided benefits. This news came in the form of testimony by Kay E. Brown,Director – Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues at the GovernmentAccountability Office, before the House Subcommittee on Department Operations.Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry. The Subcommittee is under the House AgricultureCommittee which has oversight of SNAP.
Inaddition, according to a mid-2010 reportfrom the GAO, 35 states have no limit on the amount of assets a food-stamprecipient can possess. More and more states -- the count was 36 at the time ofthe report -- are providing “categorical eligibility” for food stamps to anyonewho receives welfare services. For example, if a person receives aninformational brochure from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)program, that counts as receiving a service. This is a ploy by states toincrease the amount of federal funding they receive.
One such example of a state providing unneeded aid isthe state of Washington. The state sent out $1 checks to the 250,000 food stamprecipients in the state. The director of the Community Services Division forthe Department of Social and Health Services, Leo Ribas, has stated that thechecks trigger an additional $43 million in federal food benefits. These $1checks are a one-time move to leverage the federal money and the state will beable to trigger the federal assistance through a routine deposit in food stampaccounts next year.
Given the increasing amount of people receiving thesebenefits, it seems only right that Congress hold additional hearings on thisissue. Americans should know whether these programs are benefitting those whoare truly needy, or if they are being abused as these reports seem to suggest.