Sen. Welch – Are people taking advantage of the system? Sadly, the answer is yes.

April 26, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Foothills Media Group

State Sen. Jason Welch: Government waste
Friday, April 19, 2013
By State Sen. Jason Welch

Are people taking advantage of the system? Sadly, the answer is yes.

Fraud accounts for millions of dollars in state government waste every year. Historically, the fraud within programs goes undetected and unreported. One blatant example of this waste was the food stamp mess linked to the Nor’easter of 2011, which proved the state is not managing its resources with accuracy or accountability.

As you well remember, this storm knocked out power and left many without food and shelter.

A month later, thousands of people lined up around the state at the department of social services’ regional offices to apply for the disaster supplemental nutrition assistance program (DSNAP).

The threshold for qualifying was very low, and many recipients never showed proper identification to prove they were supposed to get the help.

This resulted in millions of dollars being handed out with no questions asked.

State auditors later filed a report that shows the Department of Social Services was overwhelmed and never stopped to take a step back and review what it was doing in order to get control over the situation.

They were planning on receiving 3,000 applications and they got 25,000 applications that day. This is a 55-percent error rate, which is outrageous, and the plan was not adjusted.

Workers could have simply asked questions about proper verification and that alone might have given people pause.

Another example of waste comes in the form of state debit cards, which are given for cash assistance.

One television station in our state did an investigation for a period of three months in 2011, and found automatic teller machine withdrawals at questionable spots around the state, including strip clubs and tobacco shops.

It’s outrageous and discouraging that taxpayer dollars meant to help people are being abused. When you need assistance it should be there. The abuse of the system is what’s unconscionable.

These examples prove there needs to be oversight by the legislature. In recent years republicans have suggested adding 26 fraud prevention positions in the Department of Social Services, and assigning that unit to the Division of Criminal Justice.

It is believed this will result in millions of dollars in savings over time. An additional 12 positions would be dedicated to Medicaid fraud detection, and 75 percent of the costs would be paid by the federal government.

Fraud Prevention and Recovery details:

• Add 12 new positions to the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, for a total of 21 positions in the Unit. The federal governtment pays 75 percent of the cost. Expected savings: $7 million per additional position, or $84 million total.

• Transfer existing fraud prevention staff at the Department of Social Services to the Division of Criminal Justice. This will eliminate any conflict of interest.

• Add 26 more positions to the social services fraud prevention unit. Expected savings: $700,000 per new position, or $18.2 million total.

• Eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit. The IRS has reported as much as 28 percent of payments to be fraudulent. Expected savings (revenue gain): $116.5 million.

To report fraud of government assistance call 1-800-842-2155 or e-mail DSS at [email protected].

Next week: taxpayer dollars for the communist party?

State Sen. Jason Welch represents District 31, including the towns of Thomaston, Plainville, Plymouth, Bristol and Harwinton.