It’s unfortunate when politicians use programs meant to benefit the poor for their own personal gain.
According to an article on Justice News, a state was found guilty of food stamp fraud on a massive scale. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services paid $7 million as part of a settlement for the food stamp fraud.
The WDHS was found guilty of violating the False Claims Act while operating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is an extension of the US Department of Agriculture that utilizes food stamps to provide affordable nourishment to low-income individuals and families.
Since the great recession in 2008, more and more Americans have found themselves unable to afford the basic cost of food. SNAP has provided assistance to more than 45 million Americans per month since 2010, a $71 billion annual expense for taxpayers.
States around the country determine which applicants are eligible for food stamps and notify the USDA, who covers the administrative costs the program requires. To avoid abuse of the program, the USDA creates an incentive for review and quality assurance by providing a bonus for the states with the lowest errors and monetary punishments for those with the most errors without signs of improvement.
The WDHS was found guilty of covering up a number of errors after it employed Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant contracted to assist WDHS with SNAP. It was discovered the company was improperly dropping applicants and adjusting the requirements to artificially reduce the number of errors.
As a result of this fraudulent activity, the state of Wisconsin received performance bonuses for having the fewest errors in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
To the WDHS’s credit, they have cooperated fully with the investigation and did agree to pay the nearly $7 million to resolve the issue, according to Acting US Attorney Jeffrey M. Anderson for the Western District of Wisconsin.
In a statement, he said, “While I am deeply troubled that these actions happened within a state agency entrusted with assisting vulnerable and needy Wisconsin residents, I am heartened that WDHS has cleaned up its act and that it cooperated with our investigation. Together with our partners in the Civil Division and the USDA, we will continue to investigate and hold accountable entities, including government entities, which misuse and wrongfully obtain SNAP funding.”
Unfortunately, this is the second state to have been found guilty of SNAP fraud in recent times. In April, Virginia’s Department of Social services paid over $7 million when it was similarly found guilty of fraud after employing Julie Osnes Consulting.
Wisconsin just admitted to food stamp fraud. Should there be increased safeguards against the abuse of food stamps?
Judicial Watch reported a massive fraud that occurred in May of last year when twenty-two individuals in the Miami-Dade County of Florida were found guilty of trading food stamps for cash totaling $13 million.
These crooks were operating food and produce stands in poor communities and fraudulently charged SNAP cards, giving a cut of the cash back to the SNAP card owner and keeping a percentage for themselves.
While the SNAP program is beneficial, considering there are many low-income earners who do need assistance to afford food, there are many flaws and weaknesses in the program. The recurring instances of fraud, both on the state and individual level, evidence a need to revise and fix the program.