The facts are starting to get in the way for critics of welfare reform. By reviewing just three months of non-contiguous out-of-state EBT card transactions (November 2011 to January 2012), the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare uncovered 653 cases of out-of-state welfare fraud, saving taxpayers $970,107.
While this is a small fraction of the $2.6 billion spent on food stamps in Pa. this year, it's nothing to scoff at given the small sample of cases examined. After all, any amount going to those working the system robs the truly needy.
The EBT card review is just the latest in a long line of waste, abuse and fraud efforts by the Department of Public Welfare. Last summer the department sifted through hundreds of thousands of backlogged Medicaid eligibility reviews and found over 100,000 ineligible individuals were collecting benefits, some of them deceased. In the fall, the department created the Office of Program Integrity and is collaborating with the Office of Inspector General to pursue SNAP (food stamp) and cash assistance (TANF) overpayments throughout the year, but there is much more to do.
As Auditor General Jack Wagner noted, our fraud problem is extensive. We'll get a better idea of how prevalent food stamp fraud is after DPW completes reviews of EBT card purchases in neighboring states. In the meantime, the House should consider HB 1948, sponsored by Tim Krieger, to establish the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card Management Program, which develops controls and procedures to identify EBT card fraud and abuse.
Fraud, waste and abuse in the welfare system is a big problem. That's why our February welfare report recommends aggressively ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse to protect benefits for the truly needy and encourage the ultimate goal of independence.