Congress Passes Bill to Stop Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in the Food Stamp Program

Oct 16, 1998

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the General Accounting Office (GAO) reporting continued abuse in the food stamp program, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations. Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, announced that the House passed S. 1733 yesterday, the Senate-passed version of his bill (H.R. 4366), to put an end to food stamp payments to deceased persons by requiring increased coordination between the federal government and the states.

In February of this year, the General Accounting Office (GAO) published a report entitled "Food Stamp Overpayments: Thousands of Deceased Individuals are Being Counted as Household Members." This audit studied four large states which account for 35 percent of the nation's participants in the Food Stamp Program. The GAO found that in these states, nearly 26,000 deceased individuals were included in households receiving food stamps, totaling $8.5 million in fraudulent payments.

"Fraud and abuse in government programs cannot be tolerated. It is simply unacceptable for welfare programs with lives of their own to continue into the afterlife. This problem should have been corrected long ago and the solution only requires cooperation between government agencies," Goodlatte said.

Under food stamp rules, households must notify their welfare office of any change in the makeup of the household within 10 days. The GAO report shows that names of deceased individuals were counted in the food stamp households for an average of four months, and, in a few instances, the deceased persons were counted for the full two years of the review.

"This is simple, common sense legislation," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) said. "It will save millions of taxpayers' dollars and it will allow states to administer their social programs more efficiently."

"We have made terrific strides over the past few years in reforming our welfare-related programs," Stenholm commented. "We are doing a better job of helping those who are genuinely needy while reducing fraud and abuse at the same time. This bill is one more step in the right direction."

S. 1733 allows states to use the most up-to-date information available to keep their food stamp rolls correct and to cross check the Social Security Administration's death records with the food stamp rolls. Once the comprehensive check is complete, deceased people will be removed from the food stamp rolls.

This legislation, which is awaiting the President's signature, follows on the heels of a newly enacted law, sponsored by Congressman Goodlatte, which requires that prisoners be taken off food stamp rolls. Congressman Goodlatte and his subcommittee remain committed to cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Food Stamp Program.

Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley. Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District -- which includes most of eastern, southern and central Oregon -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.