Archive Search ResultDSS: Cracking down on fraud
Ryan Hanchett email@example.com PUBLICATION: Franklin Press, The (NC)
DATE: July 18, 2014
The Macon County Department of Social Services is in the process of cracking down on fraud. The Integrity Initiative is an amplified attempt to identify citizens who are inappropriately taking advantage of food and nutrition services.
Income maintenance investigator Chrissy Wallace will be leading the charge on fraud prevention along with DSS attorney Micheal Butler.
"Food stamps are a scarce resource and we need to make sure that the people who should receive those benefits can do so," Butler said. "I have the utmost confidence that she (Wallace) will find those people who have been, either knowingly or unknowingly, defrauding the system and ultimately we will be able to better serve the people who truly need the program." Macon County DSS had a fulltime fraud investigator until six years ago when funding cuts at the state level resulted in the position becoming part-time. During the 2014-15 budget process, Macon County DSS Director Jane Kimsey was able to find money to fill the position again.
"We were able to secure additional federal funding and make it work where Chrissy can spend her time solely on fraud prevention," Kimsey said. "Obviously, this Integrity Initiative is one that we are taking very seriously."
The program will begin by identifying people who are receiving food and nutrition assistance despite not meeting the requirements. Once those offenders are identified there are several recourse options for DSS to pursue.
"The most egregious offenders could face prosecution for fraud," Butler said. "Those who have made inadvertent errors on their applications or made a one-time error may face repayment of benefits used. If those benefits are not repaid, the county will utilize collection procedures and garnish future tax refunds, future benefits, or even lottery winnings."
Another option available to the department is an administrative disqualification hearing, which could potentially lead to suspension of benefits and a payment plan to repay any money received in food stamps inappropriately.
Addressing fraud in the food and nutrition services area of DSS is just the beginning. Wallace will eventually move on to Medicaid, energy assistance, transportation and child care subsidy fraud as well.
"Basically, if a person knows that they have been doing something wrong regarding their benefits they should come in and get it straightened out immediately," Butler said. "It is better to get ahead of it and pay it back willingly than it is to wait until it leads to withholding funds or criminal prosecution."
In 2013, a total of 3, 043 households used food and nutrition services in Macon County.
The total amount of benefits paid out through the program was $8, 834, 221. That money comes 100 percent from the federal government. The state and county split the administrative costs associated with the Department of Social Services equally.
"Having a fulltime employee to monitor the database will allow us to better identify any fraud that is taking place within the department," Kimsey said.
"There will not be any way to give one set of information when applying for Medicaid and a different set of information when applying for food and nutrition assistance or receiving social work services. Everything is going to be streamlined under one database that the investigator will have access to."
Anyone who has information regarding food and nutrition assistance fraud is encouraged to call Macon County Department of Social Services at (828) 349-2124.
Submitted to blogg: By Gwen Taylor, PIO