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
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