Need for Greater Efforts To Recover Costs of Food Stamps Obtained Through Errors or Fraud

Gao ID: RCED-83-40 February 4, 1983

GAO conducted a review of the Food Stamp Program to see if improvements have been made in the identification and recovery of overissuances and the adjudication of cases involving alleged fraud since a 1977 report.

During fiscal years 1980 and 1981, the federal government lost about $2 billion through state overissuances of food stamp benefits, and eligible households received about $500 million less than they should have. The erroneous issuances resulted from administrative and recipient errors and fraud. Only about 1 cent of each overissued dollar was recovered. Using semiannual quality control results, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) can project the total amount of overissued and underissued benefits, but it has no reliable data on how many of these errors identify with specific households. Data from six states indicated that, compared with total estimated overissuances, relatively few specific cases have been identified. GAO stated that the use of computer matching to identify and ultimately recover specific overissuances holds considerable promise, and legislation implemented in recent years provides needed financial incentives to identify more overissuance cases. Although states are required to establish claims against households identified as receiving overissuances, they have not always done so because collection was difficult; however, recent legislation provides financial incentives and requires offsets against benefits to households still in the program. GAO found that states have not investigated or adjudicated many identified cases of potential fraud because of the problems they perceived in pursuing them, and FNS has not acted in a concerted way to solve or lessen barriers to state fraud pursuit.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: John W. Harman Team: General Accounting Office: Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Phone: (202) 512-5138

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