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Manipulating Food Stamp Error Rate Costs Virginia $7.1 Million

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Michael Martz on Monday, "Virginia has agreed to repay the federal government $7.1 million for manipulating error rates in determining eligibility for food stamps under the SNAP program."

Martz continued, writing:

"The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement Monday of an investigation into allegedly improper methods used by the Virginia Department of Social Services and a private consultant to reduce error rates in the program early in the term of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“SNAP is an important vehicle for helping needy families,” said Chad A. Readler, the acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“This settlement reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring that taxpayer funds are spent appropriately so that the public can have confidence in the integrity of vital programs like SNAP.”

"Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, who held the same job under McDonnell, said the state had hired a consultant then to find ways to reduce the number of errors it was making in eligibility determinations for the federal program, which the state helps to administer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

He later added:

"The Justice Department investigation — part of a nationwide audit of quality control in the SNAP program — said Virginia had hired Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality-control company based in South Dakota, in 2010 to reduce the error rate in determining whether someone is eligible for SNAP benefits.

"The state Social Services Department acknowledged to investigators that the consultant trained state workers “to ‘use whatever means necessary’ to find a benefits decision ‘correct’ rather than finding an error,” the Justice Department said.

"Virginia social services officials also acknowledged to investigators that if they were unable to find a case determination to be correct, “they were instructed to ‘find a reason to drop the case,’ or eliminate it from the sample,” the Justice Department said.

"The Justice Department said that beginning in 2015, the state had “taken certain corrective actions, including terminating its use of the improper quality control methods devised by Julie Osnes Consulting.” Hazel said the state terminated its contract with the consultant in 2012."

Growls readers who are concerned abut the manipulation of the food stamp error rates are urged to write to Governor Terry McAuliffe. Just click-on the following link:

Growls readers are also urged to write to their state legislators. The following legislators represent Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark Levine). Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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