May 3, 2015

State makes filing fraud complaints ‘as easy as possible’

FoodShare-chart1

In late 2011, the state Department of Health Services created a hotline (877-865-3432) for citizens to report public assistance fraud. In March 2012, it opened a web portal (www.reportfraud.wisconsin.gov) for such reports.

“One of our main priorities is to make sure we are providing essential safety net benefits … while ensuring Wisconsin’s valuable taxpayer dollars are being spent in the most efficient, effective way possible,” states the DHS website. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to report suspected fraud.”

The two portals together generate about 300 tips a month, said DHS spokeswoman Claire Yunker. The department, in response to a records request, released the complaints it received for a single month, August 2014, with the names of individuals redacted. They log 104 hotline calls and 167 web reports regarding FoodShare and other forms of assistance. Some examples:

“Ms. (name redacted) does not live at the address where her food stamps and benefits are sent. She lives with her boyfriend…”

“(Name redacted) has tried to sell his food stamp card to me multiple times.”

“This individual is working and should be ineligible based on how well her job pays.”

The records do not show what follow-up action was taken. According to Yunker, “We don’t currently have the ability to track how many complaints from our hotline and/or portal lead to sanctions or savings. However, we are currently working on a systems redesign that will allow us to track this information.”

Some contacts report problems other than alleged fraud. One woman called to say her FoodShare card was stolen, along with her wallet, and benefits used. “She wants to know if she can get some emergency funds replaced on the card,” the log entry states. “The complaint coordinator advised her that once benefits are gone, they’re gone. She asked what she could do to feed her child. Advised her to look to area food pantries.”

  • La Mer

    As Bill Bennett and Tommy Thompson reported for Heritage Fdn. in 1997. http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/hl593nbsp-the-good-news-about-welfare-reform

    “In cutting the size of Wisconsin’s welfare rolls by more than 50
    percent, Governor Thompson’s programs have resulted in fewer people
    being on welfare, and it has given those people… better lives.” (Bennett)

    This is how it was done: the State of Wisconsin provided contracts to privately run “agencies” in one or two populated areas like Milwaukee. Agency staff monitored the “compliance” of their client-load of families, who were required to attend involuntary (but private-agency-mandated) activities such as parenting classes or anger management classes which, if any parent’s attendance was not perfect, (or even if the school attendance of any child in that family was not perfect) the agency could notify state welfare department, which could then drop that person through the cracks and permanently out of the welfare system for those “minor” infractions, which were justified by the new rules created secretly by Tommy Thompson in his much-touted “reforms” sort of like FoodShare “fraud.”

    Let us instead reform the growing inequality in opportunity and growing financial disparity and segregation In the U.S. and in Wisconsin (where segregated neighborhoods were just “the way things were done in the twentieth century): “Segregation by municipal ordinance (regulated by legislative fiat, not unlike…South Africa’s policy of apartheid) seems to have been a hastily conceived stopgap response to the large scale Negro migration to northern cities which received impetus with the first world war. After a Supreme Court decision in 1917 declaring this manuever unconstitutional, the line on segregation was held through the makeshift of race restrictive covenants. These individual commitments, made contractually, limited the resale of real estate purchases to specified groups only, usually identified as Caucasian.” http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/61699 p. 10.

    Now it is incarceration by the state or even murder by police…or complaints submitted online against someone “suspected” of illegal activity.