EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

May 29, 2013

Audit: Benefits flowed to welfare recipients who were reported dead

BOSTON —The state auditor has discovered 1,164 cases where welfare benefits worth nearly $2.4 million continued to flow to enrollees after they were reported deceased or to recipients using a dead person’s Social Security number.

In some cases, store purchases and ATM transactions were made after a recipient’s date of death, suggesting unauthorized people were using the welfare benefits in cases sampled by the auditor’s office, according to the report released yesterday.

Auditor Suzanne Bump called on the Department of Transitional Assistance to beef up its fraud detection, something some lawmakers have also hounded the department about.

Bump said DTA “has not done enough to ensure that only eligible people are receiving benefits.”

The auditor said there are three major areas where the agency could improve to ensure program integrity, including using accessible information from other governmental agencies to verify information. Secondly, the agency needs to better protect blank EBT cards distributed at regional offices. And lastly, DTA needs to better utilize technology within the EBT system to check for fraud.

Bump acknowledged there was a leadership change at DTA within the last year after former Commissioner Dan Hurley was asked to resign and Stacey Monahan took over as interim commissioner. The audit looked at the period from July 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012.

DTA officials said they have already taken steps to correct the problems, citing a 100-day action plan released in March aimed at preventing waste and fraud, blocking EBT card usage at prohibited establishments and monitoring card usage.

“We appreciate the recommendations put forth by the auditor. DTA is committed to continually strengthening program integrity and ensuring that only those who are eligible for benefits receive them,” Monahan said in a statement.

Monahan said DTA recently created a partnership with statewide law enforcement associations to increase data sharing, “while giving local police the tools they need to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law.”

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