Food Stamp Program Doesn’t Check SSNs of Some Recipients

March 8, 2012 - 6:02 PM

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USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong. (USDA Photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture-administered food stamp program does not check the Social Security Number (SSNs) of some of its 46.3 million recipients, many of whom are using the numbers of dead people and invalid SSNs to get benefits potentially totaling $1.1 million a month, according to a government audit.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the USDA “also has been looking at recipients who misrepresent themselves to receive benefits,” testified USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today.  “Recently, OIG has conducted a series of audits of 10 States to assess how they used participant databases to identify potentially fraudulent recipients, and we have completed work in 5 States.”

“Our analysis of the databases that States check as part of their role in ensuring recipient eligibility revealed that a total of 8,594 recipients in the 5 States were receiving potential improper payments,” said Fong.  “Some of these recipients were using the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals, or otherwise invalid Social Security numbers, while others were receiving benefits in more than one State. In total, we estimate that these recipients could be receiving about $1.1 million a month.”

The USDA administers its food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), through its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) division.

“In our reports, we have recommended that FNS require State agencies to ensure they use a national database to perform death matches and Social Security number verifications, and that they perform checks to make sure information is entered correctly,” said Fong. “Generally, FNS has agreed with our recommendations and is taking corrective action.”

In a document entitled, “Highlights of Office of Inspector General (OIG) Plans for Fiscal Year 2012”, the IG states, “Match the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased individuals’ Social Security numbers and names to eligibility data in the Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine whether benefits are delivered appropriately.”