Friday, February 1, 2013
House Minority Leader Brad Jones: Recent Revelations Call Into Question Integrity of Department of Transitional Assistance
“The Office of the Inspector General’s review of the eligibility process for Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cash assistance revealed clear negligence on the part of the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) in ensuring that taxpayer funded welfare benefits are only granted to those who truly need them. Rather than verifying the accuracy of eligibility information provided by welfare applicants at the time of application, the DTA has instituted a practice of presuming eligibility and providing unverified applicants with benefits. This has not only led to an annual waste of at least $25 million in taxpayer dollars for cash assistance benefits, but last week the USDA revealed that DTA owes the federal government $27.7M for overpayment of SNAP benefits.
These recent revelations call into question the integrity of the Department of Transitional Assistance and the programs it oversees. In the wake of Commissioner Curley’s repeated denial of waste and abuse, I commend Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz for recognizing the need for a change in leadership in order to implement significant reforms within DTA. Change is absolutely essential to ensure that welfare benefits are reserved for the people who need them the most.
The Inspector General’s comprehensive report has provided the Legislature with a blue print for action this session. DTA should be required to have complete information on an applicant and to verify the information provided by an applicant, through the use of real-time data matching with other state and federal agencies, prior to giving out taxpayer funded benefits. The annual cost of the waste resulting from inadequate verification of welfare eligibility far exceeds the cost that would be associated with both tightening eligibility verifications and implementing greater oversight over the use of cash assistance. I look forward to my ongoing advocacy on behalf of Massachusetts’ taxpayers as we look to repair a system that continues to falter and misuse public funds.”