A state audit has revealed that Massachusetts has given out $18 million in “questionable public assistance benefits” in recent years, in cases that included the distribution of benefits to more than 1,160 people who were either dead or using the Social Security number of a deceased person.
In some cases, recipients began receiving benefits for the first time after their deaths.
The audit, issued Tuesday, covered cash, food stamps, and other benefits intended for low-income families, and found millions of dollars in irregular benefits and an urgent need for improved anti-fraud security.
In 1,164 cases, deceased recipients continued to receive a total of $2.39 million in benefits up to 27 months after they had been reported dead. The state Department of Transitional Assistance also paid out at least $368,000 benefits to 178 guardians who claimed deceased persons as dependents, and $164,000 to 40 individuals being claimed by more than one guardian.
Additionally, State Auditor Suzanne Bump found suspicious transitions on electronic benefit cards amounting to $15 million, including almost $5 million in which all food benefits had been withdrawn at once. Meanwhile, five regional offices could not provide documentation for more than 30,000 EBT cards.
As reported by the Boston Globe, the DTA claimed that it was already addressing the issues raised a year ago, including comparing its list of welfare recipients to the Social Security Administration’s master list of deceased in order to weed out those who had died and were still receiving benefits.
But a month later, the auditor discovered a majority of dead welfare recipients that were checked were still receiving benefits, including some who had started receiving handouts for the first time after their deaths.
The damning audit comes on the back of the resignation in February of the then director of the DTA, Daniel J. Curley, after it was reported that the agency failed to verify eligibility of recipients, which could have cost the state $25 million a year in unwarranted payments.