Ensuring only those individuals that should receive benefits are receiving benefits.
The integrity of the eligibility process is paramount in SNAP. This includes ensuring only those individuals that should receive benefits are receiving benefits. To address this concern, SNAP is taking a number of steps to improve household eligibility.
Quality Control System
First and foremost, SNAP has a quality control (QC) system in place to assess the degree of payment accuracy and integrity. States are rewarded for good performance or face fiscal sanctions for poor performance. The data compiled through the QC system is useful in identifying areas of error concentration. Regional staff has formed combined Federal/State partnerships to address these areas of concern. These partnerships, or program accuracy teams, identify and correct weaknesses in State eligibility determination. In addition, the partnerships change weak reporting processes identified through the QC system. The teams conduct forums and sponsor State exchanges to share best practices in the area of payment accuracy.
Eligibility Matches – Income Checks
FNS is active in conducting State computer matches to verify eligibility. Through the Income Eligibility Verification System (IEVS), State agencies have the option of conducting matches to verify household income utilizing six major databases. FNS research shows IEVS to be cost-effective. Overall, IEVS assists caseworkers in determining correct benefits and preventing administrative errors.
Eligibility Matches – Deceased Individuals
Occasionally, households do not report when a household member dies. They simply continue to receive benefits for that household member. FNS supported legislation that now requires State agencies to match with SSA’s Death Master File (DMF) to detect participation of deceased individuals. All State agencies are currently conducting this match and removing from participating households those found to be deceased. Where disclosure of the deceased household member is thought to be intentional, prosecution for an intentional Program violation may ensue.
Eligibility Matches – Prisoners
FNS utilizes a number of computer matching applications to enhance program support. One such program is the matching of prisoners, who are ineligible to participate, with SNAP participation roles. FNS has worked actively with State agencies, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make prisoner data available to States and to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of State matching programs. All states currently operate prisoner matching programs, many using SSA’s nationwide database, that match the names of prisoners with SNAP recipients within their borders. FNS will continue to facilitate the system’s use by all States.
Eligibility Matches – Duplicate Participation
SNAP is focusing greater attention on reducing the potential for program abuse and fraud by individuals who present false identification in order to obtain duplicate program benefits. Since the mid 1990s, 24 State agencies have explored the use of biometrics in their welfare systems to prevent duplicate participation. In addition, FNS has developed program and funding policy to support the implementation of finger imaging systems when these systems are shown to be in the interest of SNAP. Four States have developed and implemented finger imaging systems in their SNAP programs. FNS expects four additional States to initiate new SNAP finger imaging projects within the next 12 months.
Eligibility Matches – Fleeing Felons
Recent legislation has made fleeing felons and probation/parole violators ineligible to participate in the SNAP. This additional eligibility criterion allows the Department to support initiatives such as Operation Talon. Operation Talon is a law enforcement (OIG) initiative in which information of law enforcement agencies is matched with SNAP caseload data to detect and apprehend individuals who are fleeing felons or parole/probation violators. FNS continues to encouraged State cooperation with the USDA OIG and local law enforcement agencies.
Recipients who commit fraud are disqualified from the SNAP. Disqualification periods range from one year to permanent depending on the number and severity of the offense. Disqualified individuals, more than a million of them, are tracked through a central registry known as the Electronic Disqualified Recipient System (eDRS). The eDRS ensures that only deserving individuals can continue to participate in the SNAP.
USDA Phone Numbers and Address
Washington Metropolitan Area 202-690-1622
Toll Free 800-424-9121
Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 23399
Washington, D.C. 20026-3399