By Brandon Peterson, Marketing —
Is the US government putting our hard-earned money to good use? Federal programs have been used for many years in an effort to best use taxpayers’ money. One of these programs is the food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides nutritional assistance to residents of the United States, including 20 percent of children. Another is Medicaid, which provides health coverage to 31 million children, 4.6 million low-income seniors, 3.7 million people with disabilities, etc. But can we be sure that those applying for benefits are trustworthy and have needs that they cannot fulfill for themselves?
Fraud in Arizona
Earlier this month, two Arizonian men were arrested on drug charges. In addition to drugs, investigators seized documents linking Gildaro Vallez and Carmen Gil to over $13,500 in benefit fraud. They stole $7,297 from SNAP and $6,250 from Arizona’s version of Medicaid. These thefts, although seemingly small, are detrimental to SNAP. To put things in perspective, the average benefit amount for SNAP participants is around $125 per month. The amount of money stolen by these men could have provided nutritional assistance to 58 people for one month or to one person for almost 5 years!
This amount might seem insignificant, but a simple web search for “food stamp fraud” or “Medicaid fraud” yields numerous cases of fraud in the past month alone. All of these cases of fraud are not merely a drain on taxpayer funds; they are stripping aid money from those who need it most.
While it is not clear what methods Vallez and Gil used to defraud these programs, there are many ways in which SNAP and Medicaid fraud occur. Sometimes, it’s as simple as filling out false information on an application for assistance. Other times, business owners accept food stamps for items ineligible for purchase using benefits. There have even been cases of people selling their food stamps online for cash.
How to Prevent Fraud
With so many ways to commit fraud, the government needs to utilize smart solutions to catch fraudsters and prevent them from slipping through the cracks. One solution might be to conduct inspections of those retailers who are authorized to accept food stamps. Another might be to conduct more regular audits of government employees distributing benefits as well as screen those who receive the benefits. Drawbacks to these solutions include the high costs of conducting audits and possibly creating a sense of distrust in employees and those receiving benefits.
With Converus’ EyeDetect solution, the drawbacks are eliminated thanks to the software’s affordable and nonintrusive technology. EyeDetect could help make SNAP aware of any fraud by using the technology to monitor employees distributing the benefits to make sure nothing is amiss in distribution and to pre-screen benefit applicants to determine if they have ever participated in fraud before. EyeDetect could even screen current benefit receivers to determine if they are receiving more benefits than allotted to them. EyeDetect could be the solution in stopping SNAP fraud.