We’ve all heard the expression: “home is where the heart is.” For most of us, this sentiment rings true. A home provides a sense of security and shelter. But, times are tough, and not everyone is able
to afford housing to meet these needs. That’s where public housing programs come in. Public housing programs provide subsidized rental assistance through Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. Like all public assistance programs, the applicant must meet certain eligibility criteria and disclose additional assistance they are receiving through other benefits programs. Unfortunately, some cheat the system and lie by failing to disclose additional benefits. And, that’s the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from turnto10.com.

The article describes the results of a Rhode Island human services report on food stamp fraud and waste, which found that residents of a local housing authority were “gaming the system.” (I can’t imagine anyone in Rhode Island running a scam.) So, what exactly were they doing? “The report found, among other things, that more than one-third of…housing residents that get Section 8 housing assistance are either under-reporting or not reporting their food stamps benefits” as required. In addition, the report found “dead people and prison inmates getting food stamp benefits” and their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards were “actively being used at stores.” (Wonder how the cards made their way into circulation? Can’t imagine anything nefarious taking place from prison.)

You might be thinking, “Okay, it’s food stamps – how much are we really talking about here?” Well, the report found the fraud cost taxpayers $2 million. (Sounds like real money to me.) How could your agency spend $2 million?

As in all instances of fraud, the question is: how do we stop it? If under-reporting or failing to report the food stamps benefits is how the fraud is being committed, it seems like the problem could be caught at the time of eligibility determination or re-determination. And, if people are lying about receiving food stamps benefits, what other benefits are they receiving and failing to disclose? So, here’s my question for you: what steps would you recommend putting in place to verify the applicant’s eligibility?

  1. In this day and with the technology available, I think it is unbelievable that there is no database available nationwide linking Food Stamps/Welfare Assistance, and Housing Assistance State to State. Agencies should have the capaility to enter in a social security number and access a report listing the type of public assistance a person is receiving. We can look up Social Security benefits, but not public assistance. Having the ability to look up benefts would cut down on the duplicate benefits people receive from states when they move. Why has this system not been developed yet?

  2. Great point L.East touch on database state to state with local(s) nationwide should be in place. Fraud with benefits. The applicant income/assets is questionable, 1.) Credit Reports. tied into verification, 2) Set up “Job services” department– applicant verification Department. best place to start is within the department–Risk management-Internal/External audits,research team. Getting the Public advice and thoughts are great but I’m questioning leadership within the state department handling and team-ship that new ideas and thoughts are not within house they are being paid to do this if new ideas are not being elevation board members big players employee. The problem is in house. Save state(s)/”the people”, money! Hope this reaches the main player whom makes decisions. Need my help I am for hire. Internal/external Audits are my favorite. Reconstruction of the organization needs to be order. Even offer services; if you don’t see results walk away with no problem. (smile)

  3. There are systems in place to detect this type of Fraud however, they are not utilized. More emphasis at this time is placed on getting citizens food assistance than deterring those who commit or attempt to commit fraud. Current policy allows for incarcerated individuals to receive benefits as well as dead people to receive benefits if they don’t report they are incarcerated or dead. Imagine that! Those folks in local welfare fraud find themselves strapped by federal simplified reporting. If you are not required to report it then it didn’t happen. If you don’t take attendance no one is absent. The first fix is in legislation and the second fix is common sense. Unfortunately those who legislate tend to discuss matters with those who administer rather than those on the front line. In the end safeguarding information; housing won’t share with social services who won’t share with social security who won’t share with DMV who won’t share with education who won’t share with Medicaid who won’t share with OMB who won’t share with USDA. Every agency for themselves and what’s a few hundred million dollars in food stamps and housing anyway?

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