Judicial Watch • Food Stamps

Food Stamps Archives | Judicial Watch

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration has shattered records by spending a mind-boggling $80.4  billion to give a record number of people free groceries, now it’s dedicating millions more to crack down on fraud that includes using social media to illegally sell and buy food stamps online.

It’s an outrageous and senseless waste of taxpayer dollars to allow a government handout program to become so bloated that it requires such a huge allocation to counter corruption. Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the fraud surrounding the government’s scandal-plagued food stamp program in the last few years. Under President Obama, the food stamp rolls are busting, with a record 50 million people getting free food from Uncle Sam.

Recipients include illegal immigrants thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that distributes food stamps, and the Mexican government. Last year JW uncovered records that show the agency has teamed up with Mexico to promote participation by illegal aliens in the U.S. food stamp program. The effort includes Spanish-language flyers at Mexican Embassies ensuring that their nationals don’t need to declare their immigration status to get financial assistance from the American government.

As a result the USDA’s grocery giveaway has been long tainted with fraud and corruption that’s been well documented in federal audits and local media reports around the country. Back in 2012 the agency’s Inspector General told Congress that many food stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, the USDA watchdog, Phyllis Fong, told federal lawmakers, estimating that the fraud had  cost taxpayers nearly $200 million up to that point.

That was two years ago and the problem has only gotten worse as the rolls have expanded. So the Obama administration has decided to spend $7 million in fiscal year 2014 to crack down on food stamp fraud. The money will help states “strengthen recipient integrity activities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” according to the grant announcement. A few years ago, the Obama administration renamed food stamps Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to eliminate the stigma associated with the welfare program.

The administration has coined the multi-million-dollar initiative “SNAP Trafficking Prevention Grant Program” and it will assist states across the U.S. with cash to implement process improvements designed to detect, investigate and prosecute individuals that unlawfully exchange food stamps for cash payments. Offenders can be permanently disqualified from the program or be criminally charged, according to the announcement. “Program violations may include a number of activities, such as falsifying income or identity in order to be eligible for benefits they may not be entitled to, or by using benefits for anything other than their intended purpose,” the announcement reads.

Among the anti-fraud initiatives that the money will fund are strategies to identify and successfully investigate attempts to buy or sell SNAP benefits online using social media such as Facebook, Twitter or ecommerce websites like Craigslist and eBay. This means that American taxpayers are getting fleeced, first by doling out tens of billions of dollars to supposedly feed the poor then wasting millions more to bust the “needy” selling their government benefit on Facebook and eBay.

 

 

 

 

 

The Obama administration’s efforts to keep secret information about its scandal-plagued food-stamp program received a major blow from a federal appellate court that’s ruled the government can’t hide how much money businesses make by accepting the welfare payments.

In the last few years Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the fraud and corruption surrounding food stamps, which are administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food stamp rolls have grown immensely under Obama and the government spends an astounding $80.4 billion a year on the program to meet the president’s goal of eradicating “food insecure households.” A recent USDA report estimates that $858 annually are lost through fraud, especially when recipients sell their benefits for cash at a discount to food retailers.

The USDA report notes that convenience stores and small grocers account for 85% of fraud cases even though they only account for 15% of all food stamp transactions. A newspaper in Sioux Falls launched an investigation and discovered that 622 South Dakota vendors—ranging from grocery stores to gas stations—are enrolled in the food stamp program, which was renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to eliminate the stigma associated with welfare.

The newspaper, the Argus Leader, requested information from the USDA on annual payments for hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide approved by the agency to accept SNAP. As is common among large federal agencies, the USDA refused to provide the files which were requested by the paper under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The newspaper sued, a South Dakota federal judge sided with the USDA and the paper appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

The USDA argues that a statute creating the food stamp program requires businesses applying for participation to include income and sales tax information that can’t be released. The agency claims this also applies to money that retailers earn from SNAP sales once they are enrolled in the government program. In siding with the USDA, South Dakota federal Judge Karen Schreier ruled that the agency has the right to keep the information secret.

Reversing Schreier’s decision last week, the 8th Circuit rejected the USDA’s argument that the same federal provision protecting retailers’ application information from disclosure also applies to how much they are paid by the government once in the program. In fact, the appellate court agreed with the newspaper’s argument that data collected from businesses when they apply to accept food stamps doesn’t include taxpayer money they get once they are enrolled.

“The department, not any retailer, generates the information, and the underlying data is ‘obtained’ from third-party payment processors, not from individual retailers,” the three-judge panel wrote in its opinion. Besides, the appellate court points out in its ruling that “Congress has clearly indicated its intent to involve the public in counteracting fraud perpetrated by retailers participating in the program.”

There’s no doubt the USDA will spend more taxpayer dollars to appeal so it’s unlikely that the agency will make the information available anytime in the near future. In the meantime the agency responded to the federal appellate court spanking with an all too familiar “no comment.” In an e-mail to the Argus Leader the president of the Association of Health Care Journalists, also the health and science editor at a mainstream newspaper, calls SNAP a government black hole. “The secrecy involving food stamps is in a class by itself, exceeding that of any federal safety-net program.”

 

 

 

 

A convenience store charged with trafficking food stamps can’t get booted from the government program because it would crush the business since it’s located in a poor neighborhood where most clients use the welfare benefit to pay for merchandise, a federal judge has ruled.

The case, currently before a federal court in Arizona, involves a corner shop in a low-income neighborhood in northwest Phoenix. The feds have charged the owners, a husband-and-wife team, for trafficking $55 in food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to avoid any stigma associated with a government handout.

SNAP rules specifically require participating businesses—stores that accept food stamps as payment—be kicked out of the program if they are charged with any wrongdoing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the program and grants the permits to participating retailers. There is a lot of money involved. In fiscal year 2012, the last available figures, more than $74 billion in client benefits were redeemed at more than 246,000 participating stores, farmers’ markets and homeless meal providers, according to figures listed in the USDA’s annual report.

In the Phoenix case prosecutors, as per federal law, quickly moved to eject the convenience store from the government’s SNAP program after charging the owners with fraud. The owners took legal action to stop it, claiming that their business depends on food stamps for survival. They say their little store, called Bubba’s Drive Thru, would go under without food stamps because the majority of their clients use them to pay. In fact, most of the people who live in the area get some kind of government assistance, the criminally charged merchants revealed in federal court.

The federal judge hearing the case, David Campbell, was sympathetic and blocked the government from dropping Bubba’s Drive Thru from the SNAP roster this month. That means that, despite being criminally charged they get the opportunity to fleece more American taxpayers via the bloated food stamp program. That’s because Judge Campbell has determined the accused criminals’ “livelihood” will be negatively affected if the government stops the cash flow.

“As noted, Plaintiffs assert without contradiction that they will be out of business within a matter of weeks,” Judge Campbell wrote in his order. “Thus, if their disqualification takes effect immediately as provided in Defendants (the government) procedures, with no possibility of a stay, Plaintiffs will have been permanently deprived of their business and livelihood….”

It gets better. The judge downplayed the fraud as “only $55 of SNAP trafficking violations in the last five years.” He also acknowledged that “public interest normally would favor an honest and effectively enforced SNAP program” but says in the order that the case’s “unique facts” have led him to conclude that “the public interest would not be served by permanently shutting down” Bubba’s Drive Thru.

This absurd case is part of a bigger problem involving the government’s food-stamp program, which has grown immensely under President Obama. A record 48 million people—and growing—get free groceries from the government and the administration operates an aggressive promotion campaign to recruit even more recipients. It’s all part of Obama’s commitment to eradicate what he says is a national epidemic of “food insecure” households. Like all out-of-control government programs, this one has been plagued by fraud and corruption, forcing one U.S. senator to take action calling for an end to the madness.

 

As if it weren’t bad enough that a record 47.7 million people—and growing—get food stamps from the U.S. government, federal records reveal that a whopping 1/3 of Puerto Rico’s population receives them.

This cost American taxpayers an astounding $2 billion last year, according to figures released by the government agency—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—that distributes the benefit. The information was originally obtained by a conservative news website that reports up to 25% of the $2 billion is untraceable because it’s distributed in cash and there’s no way to verify that the funds are actually spent on food.

The USDA does confirm, however, that an average of 1.37 million people received food stamps in Puerto Rico each month in fiscal year 2012. The island, which is a U.S. territory, has a population of 3.7 million, which means that 37% of Puerto Ricans get food stamps from Uncle Sam. Though the figure of 47.7 million in the U.S. shatters records, it still marks only 15.2% of the nation’s population of 313 million.

Nevertheless, the food stamp rolls continue to rise under President Obama who is committed to eradicating what he believes is a national epidemic of “food insecure” households. In 2012 the government spent an unprecedented $80.4 billion on the program, marking an unbelievable $2.7 billion increase from the previous year. The figure doesn’t even include other taxpayer-funded food programs for low-income populations like “Child Nutrition Programs” that received an additional $18.3 billion last year.

As is typical with these types of bloated government programs, fraud and corruption has tainted the USDA’s grocery giveaway. Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch obtained documents from the USDA detailing how the agency is working with the Mexican government to promote participation by illegal aliens in the U.S. food stamp program. The effort includes a Spanish-language flyer provided to the Mexican Embassy by the USDA ensuring that Mexicans in the U.S. don’t need to declare their immigration status to get financial assistance from Uncle Sam.

It turns out that illegal aliens have received food stamps by the vanload for decades, according to a former certification case worker who contacted J W after reading the documents. The retired assistant case manager, Craig McNees, was in charge of vetting food-stamp applicants in north Florida and Indiana in the ’80s and says the program was infested with fraud and corruption that was perpetually ignored by management. “Illegals would come in by the vanload and we were told to give them their stuff,” McNees said. “Management knew very well they were illegal. It was so rampant that some employees would tell their illegal relatives to come get food stamps.”

Previous to that JW has reported extensively on the fraud that has plagued the food-stamp program even as the Obama administration continues to promote it. For instance last spring the USDA Inspector General revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash. The fraud cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, according to the USDA watchdog, which provided various examples during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

A separate federal audit revealed last year that many who don’t even qualify for food stamps receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements. This is sticking American taxpayers with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands of people who can well afford to feed themselves.

Just when you thought the bloated food-stamp program couldn’t get any bigger a government-sanctioned audit makes a case for expanding it by, among other things, claiming that it doesn’t account for inner-city barriers to finding affordable, nutritious food.

The probe, requested by the Obama Administration, also determined that food-stamp benefits lag behind the increasing cost of food and that the welfare program penalizes recipients with jobs. The impact of inflation and other factors on food prices causes a lag in the benefit adjustment that can significantly reduce the purchasing power of food stamps, according to the National Academy of Science (NAS), an independent group that advises the federal government.

The administration requested the NAS investigation to help assess whether food stamps are adequate for beneficiaries to access a truly nutritious and healthy diet, which the president has established is disproportionately available to wealthy suburbanites. This goes hand in hand with Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion measure to end childhood obesity in low-income neighborhoods by brining government-subsidized healthy foods to inner-city areas.

“For many Americans who live at or below the poverty threshold, access to healthy foods at a reasonable price is a challenge that often places a strain on already limited resources and may compel them to make food choices that are contrary to current nutritional guidance,” the NAS report says. It goes on to state that the goals of the food-stamp program include “raising the level of nutrition among low-income households and maintaining adequate levels of nutrition by increasing the food purchasing power of low-income families.”

Mission accomplished if you consider the numbers. An unprecedented 46 million people in the U.S. get free groceries from Uncle Sam at an astonishing cost of $80.4 billion annually, according to the government’s own figures. The number has increased drastically every year under Obama.  In 2009 the tab was $55.6 billion and by 2010 it skyrocketed to around $70.5 billion. Out-of-control government programs like this are always vulnerable to fraud and corruption and we’ve already seen evidence that it has struck this one, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Last spring the USDA Inspector General revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, according to the USDA watchdog, which provided various examples during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

A separate federal audit revealed last year that many who don’t qualify for food stamps receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements. This is sticking American taxpayers with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands of people who can well afford to feed themselves.

This insanity has been created by the president and his mission to eradicate “food insecure households” in the U.S. To accomplish it, the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Obama Administration is proudly shattering welfare records with an astonishing number of people collecting public benefits long term, especially food stamps.

Judicial Watch has reported in the past how out of control the government’s food stamp program has gotten under President Obama and the fraud and corruption that’s plagued it. How bad is it? A few months ago a U.S. Senator, who sits on the Senate Budget Committee, demanded an end to the madness which includes a partnership with Mexican consulates to encourage foreign nationals, migrant workers and non-citizen immigrants to apply for food stamps.

The program has exploded with a record number of people—46 million and growing—getting free groceries from Uncle Sam. Adding insult to injury, a federal audit revealed last year that many who don’t qualify for food stamps receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements. This is sticking American taxpayers with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands of people who can well afford to feed themselves.

As 2013 gets rolling, the government reveals this month that in fiscal year 2012 it spent a record $80.4 billion on food stamps. That’s a whopping $2.7 billion increase from the previous fiscal year! This doesn’t even include other taxpayer-funded food programs for low-income populations like “Child Nutrition Programs” that received an additional $18.3 billion last year.

This insanity has been created by the president and his mission to eradicate “food insecure households” in the U.S. To accomplish it, the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

As a result federal spending on food stamps has increased every year under Obama, according to government figures. In 2009 the tab was $55.6 billion and by 2010 it skyrocketed to around $70.5 billion. Out-of-control government programs like this are always vulnerable to fraud and corruption and we’ve already seen evidence that it has struck this one, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Last spring the USDA Inspector General revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, according to the USDA watchdog, which provided various examples during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The government’s food stamp program has gotten so out of control under President Obama that a United States senator is demanding an end to the madness, especially the administration’s aggressive promotion campaigns to recruit even more recipients.

A record number of people—46 million and growing—already get food stamps from the U.S. government and many don’t qualify for the welfare benefit. Earlier this year a federal audit revealed that many who don’t qualify receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements.

As a result American taxpayers are getting stuck with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands who can well afford to feed themselves. How did this happen? The Obama Administration has promoted food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, asserting that it’s the government’s duty to eradicate “food insecure households.”

In the last few years the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

Finally, a U. S. senator who sits on the Senate Budget Committee is demanding that the administration stop promoting food stamps as if the program isn’t already bloated. In a letter to the agency that distributes the benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions questions the agency’s partnership with Mexican consulates to encourage foreign nationals, migrant workers and non-citizen immigrants to apply for food stamps and other USDA administered welfare benefits.

The letter, addressed to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, mentions examples of the agency’s recruitment efforts and asks for the elimination of all materials training and recruitment efforts relating to the program. It defies rational thinking, Senator Sessions writes, for the U.S. to partner with foreign governments to place more foreigners on American welfare when the country is suffering through a $16 trillion debt crisis.

 

 

As if it weren’t bad enough that a record number of people—46 million and growing—get food stamps from the U.S. government, a federal audit reveals that many who don’t qualify receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements.  

As a result American taxpayers are getting stuck with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands who can well afford to feed themselves. Here is the nutshell version of how it came to this; the Obama Administration has promoted food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, asserting that it’s the government’s duty to eradicate “food insecure households.”

In the last few years the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

As a result a record 46.3 million people—including some illegal immigrants—get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. It’s only a matter of time before an out-of-control government program like this becomes infested with fraud and corruption.  

A few months ago the USDA’s Inspector General revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, according to the USDA watchdog, who provided various examples during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Regardless, the administration keeps pouring money into the program. For instance in May it allocated $4 million to provide farmers’ markets not currently participating in the welfare plan with the wireless technology necessary to redeem the benefits. The idea is to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to low-income folks who would otherwise not be able to afford them. This is crucial because the feds claim the nation’s obesity epidemic has hit poor and ethnic minority communities hardest because they don’t have access to healthy foods.

This brings us back to the bulging food-stamp rolls. The previously mentioned federal audit, conducted by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that 473,000 households that received food stamps were not even eligible under federal standards. In one year alone this cost taxpayers about $460 million, according to the probe which suggests “improved oversight.”

Here is another enraging figure included in the GAO report; in the last decade the food stamp program has more than doubled and costs have quadrupled because the government has essentially encouraged states to disregard household income and asset limits required to qualify for the assistance. This is called “broad-based categorical eligibility.”

 

 

Sign Up for Updates!