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Newsroom USDA report confirms existence of fraud in Kansas’ SNAP program

TOPEKA – A U.S. Department of Agriculture audit report on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, from August 2009 through August 2010, found that of 269,710 Kansas participants, 883 recipients were deceased, had invalid Social Security numbers, were receiving duplicate benefits within the state or were simultaneously receiving benefits from other states.

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is responsible for administering SNAP benefits statewide. 

“This report confirms what we already knew: that benefits fraud and mistakes exist in the SNAP program,” SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki said Wednesday. “But since taking office in January of this year, I have ramped up our anti-fraud efforts and my staff has uncovered an even broader pattern of mistakes and abuse than USDA identified in 2010, and we already are going after it.”

SRS’ response letter to the audit points out that the problem areas that the report identified have been addressed and are being corrected. 

In August, the Secretary appointed a new Director of Fraud Investigation, who was recently appointed a Special Assistant Attorney General with prosecutorial authority. In October, a preliminary examination of SRS’ program data indicated that the department may be improperly paying benefits to more than 7,000 beneficiaries, including 312 possible deceased, 941 showing severe risk of identify fraud, 261 individuals believed to be incarcerated and 6,400 Kansas beneficiaries with out-of-state drivers licenses. These figures reflect a likely possibility of more than $22 million in benefits fraud and potential savings for the department and for taxpayers.

The USDA audit report faulted the previous administration’s eligibility system checks and safeguards. For instance, SRS previously ran a match of SNAP participants’ names against only State of Kansas’ death records, which do not include participants who may have died in a different state. In addition, participants using invalid Social Security numbers in many cases were not being purged from the benefit rolls.

SRS is now using a variety of methods and nationwide databases to help identify deceased participants and now utilizes a system that provides a monthly computer match by Social Security numbers that compares public assistance case files and Social Security records (a similar process performs the same function for SSI recipients.)

“Defeating those who are trying to game the system and obtain access to benefits to which they are not entitled is an ongoing process at SRS. Under the Brownback administration, this task has been assigned a higher priority than ever before. We are constantly looking for ways to tighten up our eligibility screening and monitoring the accuracy of our data,” Secretary Siedlecki said.  “Kansas taxpayers – American taxpayers – ought to be able to have confidence that they are providing help for those in need, but aren’t being taken to the cleaners by fraud and error.” 

“And our eligibility screenings are going to become more efficient when the KEES system comes on board,” Siedlecki said.  “KEES will allow us to do an even better job of identifying fraud, eliminating duplication and reducing errors in government assistance programs.”

The State of Kansas has started the development and implementation of the automated Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System (KEES). This new system will improve the state’s accuracy in determining eligibility for cash and food assistance programs, as well as medical benefits, by cross-referencing a long list of state and federal data sources to identify ineligible applicants.