MAY 22, 2015
The bloated federal agency charged with feeding the poor—and eradiating “food insecurity” in the U.S.—blew nearly $7 billion to provide “ineligible recipients” with the welfare benefit and there appears to be no end in sight to the fleecing.
In fact, the agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has for years violated a measure known as the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) that requires agencies to conduct annual risk assessments to identify programs that make “significant improper payments” of $10 million or more. Not only has the USDA violated IPERA in the last four years, it also refuses to implement a more efficient verification process before doling out benefits by asserting that it would “create barriers for families that need help.”
Last year the USDA made an astounding $6.9 billion of “improper payments,” according to a scathing report made public this week by the agency’s inspector general. Two programs accounted for a chunk of the money that was wasted; food stamps, officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to eliminate the stigma of welfare and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) which cost American taxpayers a whopping $16 billion in 2014. Of the $6.9 billion in fraudulent payments made by the USDA, those two programs accounted for $4.2 billion. Thus, they have been coined “high-risk programs,” according to the USDA watchdog.
The overwhelming majority of improper payments go to provide ineligible recipients with goods or services, the report confirms. This is par for the course at the USDA and the agency seems to have no intention of cleaning up its rolls. In fact, the agency goes out of its way to cover up wrongdoing in four of its most fraud-infested programs. “USDA is noncompliant with the improper payment requirements for a fourth consecutive year,” the report says. Not coincidentally, a separate probe conducted by the investigative arm of Congress, also found that the USDA needs to improve its verification process for program access. That report, also made public this week, focuses only on the National School Lunch Program, which is notorious for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
Also this week, Congress held a special hearing to address waste, fraud and abuse in child nutrition programs operated by the USDA. At the hearing, held by the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, witnesses identified misused taxpayer dollars in three of the nation’s largest child nutrition programs, which include school lunch and breakfast. The Forensic Audits and Investigative Service director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified that both programs have been designated as “high-error” by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In fact, nearly half of the households that received benefits were not eligible because their income exceeded eligibility guidelines, according to the director Jessica Lucas-Judy.
Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the pervasive fraud and corruption in the government’s various food assistance programs, especially food stamps, which has grown immensely under President Obama. Last year JW reported that the government spent a mind-boggling $80.4 billion to give a record number of people—many who didn’t even qualify for the welfare benefit—free groceries. A few years ago JW uncovered documents that show illegal immigrants also receive food stamps from Uncle Sam under an outrageous initiative with the Mexican government to promote participation by undocumented aliens.
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