West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch today announced its Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been awarded more than $272,000 by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to educate those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits on fraud prevention. The new educational tools will enhance ongoing DHHR efforts to make recipients of benefits aware of program participation rules and penalties for violations.
A specially trained unit of DHHR’s OIG, the Investigations and Fraud Management Division (IFM) fights fraud among recipients of state and federal assistance, including SNAP. IFM intends to use part of the grant to teach SNAP recipients proper handling and usage of their electronic benefit transaction (EBT) cards by producing a video tutorial that will be required for new SNAP applicants.
“For nearly 40 years, IFM has had great success in getting those who have defrauded SNAP prosecuted,” said Kathy Lawson, DHHR’s Inspector General. “These proactive educational efforts created through the grant will make SNAP applicants more aware of program integrity measures to make better informed decisions regarding program requirements and acceptable EBT card usage.”
SNAP is a multi-billion-dollar federal program. The most recent figures available from FNS reveal that $69,645,138,228 in benefits were issued nationwide in 2015. West Virginia issued SNAP benefits totaling $497,268,953 during the same time period.
After implementation of the new education program, IFM anticipates a reduction in SNAP recipient fraud and trafficking of SNAP benefits. “IFM investigators have encountered numerous suspects who said they did not realize what they were doing was wrong, “ said Lawson. “Although lack of knowledge is not an excuse, it is something that we can correct through education. By making SNAP applicants and recipients more aware of the penalties associated with failing to report required information, withholding information, reporting incorrect information, using someone else’s SNAP EBT card, trading their SNAP EBT card for cash, drugs, or other items/services, or any other fraudulent action, it is our hope that it will deter clients from committing these types of fraudulent acts.”
To report suspected SNAP recipient fraud, please call 304-558-1970.