BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) — The state auditor says the Department of Transitional Assistance needs to strengthen its efforts to protect and maximize resources after an audit revealed the state has handed out welfare benefits to 1,164 people who were either dead or using a deceased person's Social Security number.
Suzanne Bump issued an audit Tuesday covering cash, food stamps, and other benefits to low-income families. The audit detailed millions of dollars in questionable benefits, inadequate security over blank EBT cards, and a need for improved fraud detection.
The audit identified 1,164 cases where recipients continued to receive a total of $2.39 million in benefits from six to 27 months after they were reported to be deceased. According to the audit, the DTA paid at least $368,000 benefits to 178 guardians who were claiming deceased persons as dependents and $164,000 to 40 individuals being claimed by more than one guardian.
The audit also said the DTA did not verify self-reported Social Security numbers resulting in $662,000 being paid to people with more than one Social Security number. Another $359,000 was paid to individuals using the same Social Security number.
EBT cards were also a part of the audit. Bump said five regional offices could not provide documentation for more than 30,000 cards. In addition, auditors found $15 million in potentially fraudulent transactions that should have been investigated.
Bump said $4.58 million had been reported in out-of-state transactions, signaling the potential that some beneficiaries had been living out-of-state while receiving benefits.
The audit showed $1.5 million in even-dollar transactions which, according to the auditor, could have been evidence that retailers might have been exchanging benefits for cash. Another $5 million had been reported in full monthly balance withdrawals.
Another part of the audit was excessive card reissuance. The state auditor found that 9,800 people had requested and received more than 10 replacement cards since 2006. One individual had 127 cards issued in that same time period.
DTA Interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan says the audit recommendations align with the DTA's recently released action plan designed to enhance its program integrity and restore public confidence. DTA's action plan was announced in March of 2013.
"This audit demonstrates that DTA can do more to ensure that only eligible people are receiving benefits and that those benefits are not being abused, Bump said. "I am encouraged that DTA has implemented a 100-day plan and is working to address each of these issues and improve its operations."
Statement from DTA Interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan:
"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. The audit report's recommendations align with DTA's recently released 100-Day Action Plan, which takes proactive steps to prevent fraud and abuse, block EBT card usage at prohibited establishments and increase monitoring of card usage. DTA recently announced a new 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."