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 House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, held a hearing today on his bill 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.
"This outrageous fraud and abuse cannot be tolerated. Welfare programs with lives of their own that continue into the afterlife are not acceptable. This problem should have been corrected long ago and the solution is only a matter of requiring 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 4 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," Goodlatte said. "It will save millions of taxpayers' dollars and allow states to administer their programs more efficiently."
Goodlatte introduced the Food Stamp Verification Act of 1998 (H.R. 4366) in response to the GAO report. This bill 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.
The Food Stamp Verification Act comes on the heels of a newly enacted law, also 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.