March 24, 2013

How's That Fraud Squad Doing? Let No One Be Exempted from Their Scrutiny

Monique Chartier

Very good editorial, entitled "Waste-and-fraud report", in today's Providence Journal.

Mr. Block came back with what was a first glance at the problem; he lacked the data to do a more extensive survey. But he found signs of serious fraud just below the surface — demonstrating that our elected officials and bureaucrats should better monitor the billions of dollars pumped into the system. ...

The report found Food Stamp money going to dead people and more than 60 inmates in the Adult Correctional Institutions. Some recipients were selling their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, or using them for such things as “mail order gourmet meals.”

Mr. Block found that people who requested more than three replacement EBT cards over a year were much more likely than others to have prescriptions for drugs that can be easily resold on the street, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. ...

The governor has organized a small fraud unit in the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, something long overdue and desperately needed.

(Side question about "replacement" EBT cards. If someone ... er, "loses" their EBT card and applies for a replacement, are the benefits, however much or little remains, on the lost EBT card transferred to the new card? Or has this become an illegal but handy-dandy way to considerably amplify the benefit received because the recipient can get a brand-new, topped off EBT card?)

So. What's happening with the Fraud Squad? Have they been given the green light and the information that they need to get to work? If not, why not? Every day that goes by that waste, abuse and abuse is not found and stopped means many tax dollars squandered, dollars that could go to genuinely necessary spending or, heaven forbid, back to the taxpayer.

One important thing to bear in mind as we sit eagerly on Fraud Watch. Whether "waste" or "abuse" or "fraud", the core of each term, the definition is a social program benefit distributed to a recipient who does not qualify for it. The waste or abuse or fraud must be swiftly identified and terminated across the board, no matter the basis for the disqualification. There can be no exception or exemption. Not even if it leads to potential abuse of those 666 by-pass numbers at the Department of Human Services.

[Monique is Editor of the RI Taxpayer Times newsletter.]

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Instead of appointing a "fraud squad" from an organization that has shown little initiative to stop fraud, we should make RI a more business friendly place by offering private sector entrepreneurs a commission for bringing fraudulent claimants to justice. Perhaps give these individuals 20% of the annual take these criminals would have received.... Fun to watch, at least.

Posted by: Mike678 at March 25, 2013 9:33 AM

"Whether 'waste' or 'abuse' or 'fraud', the core of each term, the definition is a social program benefit distributed to a recipient who does not qualify for it."

That's not at all accurate as those are distinct problems and your definition doesn't adequately define any of them.

More intestingly thought, we'll see if this gives Justin pause with his derision for the so-called "dependency portal," which includes an integrated eligibility system that would address much of this type of problem. Kind of a funny dilemma for the fringe-right, crack down on fraud at the expense of facilitating access to social programs for those who actually quality. What to do, eh, Justin?

Posted by: Russ at March 25, 2013 9:59 AM

It's not a dilemma at all, Russ. We are anti-dependency and anti-fraud, and those are philosophically consistent goals. The issue with the dependency portal is that it encourages people to go on welfare, or if already enrolled, accept the maximum benefits available to them. Just because somebody qualifies for government assistance doesn't mean they should necessarily accept it if they can find a more self-sufficient way of providing or realize they don't really need it to get by. The welfare state is big enough without active encouragement in that direction.

Posted by: Dan at March 25, 2013 10:05 AM

Ah, got it. The preferred method for "conservatives" is a convoluted, after the fact snipe hunt based on difficult to integrate and poor quality data for fear of actually giving a few more people the benefits to which their tax dollars entitle them.

Some folks in the IT world might call that "waste," no?

Posted by: Russ at March 25, 2013 11:21 AM

Russ - The state should be keeping these databases and have them integrated to check for redundancy, waste, and fraud anyway. You don't need to have an online portal pushing people toward maximizing their welfare benefits to do any of that basic analysis or recordkeeping. The issues are totally separate and your attempt to conflate them is clumsy and unconvincing.

Posted by: Dan at March 25, 2013 11:27 AM

Sure. What do I know about data integration/data quality!

Posted by: Russ at March 25, 2013 11:33 AM

The " Simplest Solution ". Develop a Whistle Blower policy for State Employees with GUARANTEES they will not be terminated when they expose waste and fraud. They would come out in droves. A central location for deposit of their allegations would be needed that their DEPARTMENT HEADS could not access. Maybe an independent entity, not the five member panel, could peruse the allegations before they are turnned over to the STATE POLICE.

Posted by: leprechaun at March 25, 2013 11:51 AM

The current system is indefensible. In my every day activities I encounter a number of blue collar people. Their complaints about abuse of the system are rampant. The other day I spoke with a woman who lives in a 5 unit building. She told me she was the only one there who worked, everyone else was on disability. I did not enquire about the reasons, but she said she would qualify for disability. Her work week has been reduced to 4 days. She wonders if she is the fool.

She worked for me some 20 years ago, I know her to be concientious and hard working. We should not do this to these people.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 25, 2013 12:36 PM

"She wonders if she is the fool."
Posted by Warrington Faust at March 25, 2013 12:36 PM

I wonder why she is wondering!

We say in poker that if you can't spot the sucker in an hour YOU are the sucker.
Anyone in this state that makes under 50K a year is a damn fool for working. Play crazy get yourself a check, a free apartment, free medical, free food, heat, electric, air conditioning, transportation, etc. You can always work under the table if you need some pin money.
Then have a couple of kids and put them on the SSI crazy check gravy train.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 25, 2013 1:35 PM

Did anyone really expect this investigation to ever see the light of day? Remember this is Rhode Island and Corruption is a way of life.

Posted by: Bill Palazzo at March 25, 2013 4:14 PM

Russ - Thanks for reminding me of Reason #10 of why I left RI. It is precisely that elitist, progressive attitude of "I know better than you do" that I found so obnoxious. I don't need a bunch of "experts" running my life for me. Remember - a good chef is happy when customers want to see inside the kitchen.

Posted by: Dan at March 25, 2013 4:44 PM

"Did anyone really expect this investigation to ever see the light of day?"

Of course not, what everyone knows, no one knows. With 14 million people on disability, it does not require 6 degrees of separation for every voter to know someone on disability. Around 1990, a friend brought around a "disabled" legally blind guy who was receiving $1800 a month. I was amazed when he looked out the window and said "Look at the a-s on that one".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 25, 2013 10:37 PM

Dan's not in IT, but he did say at a Holiday Inn Express last night!

As always, you're welcome to ignore those with relevant professional experience. I could explain why doing things correctly the first time is less expensive than attempting to find and fix them after the fact, but I suspect it wouldn't matter.

Posted by: Russ at March 26, 2013 12:31 PM


First, you attempt to redefine fraud as "giving a few more people the benefits to which their tax dollars entitle them." Garbage. Illegal activity is simply that--illegal. That you seek to defend such activity speaks volumes of your character.

Moreover, SNAP funds are Federal monies. As 47% of the general population do not pay federal taxes, I am pretty sure the population on SNAP aren't paying Federal taxes--so just exactly what does their lack of a tax bill entitle them to? It's just another redistribution program from the 53% to the 47%.

You may want to spend a week or so at that Holiday inn....

Posted by: Mike678 at March 26, 2013 3:54 PM
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