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Mass. Inspector General Reveals Up To $25M in Welfare Fraud

A recent report released by the Inspector General of Massachusetts claims that the state’s welfare system could be paying out up to $25 million in fraudulent benefits.

A document released this week by state Inspector General Glenn Cunha studied eligibility information from those benefitting from the state and federally funded Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. The cash assistance program is overseen by the state Department of Transitional Assistance.

Inspector General Cunha estimates that $25 million in benefits is potentially being sent to the wrong hands…

To be eligible for the TAFDC program, low-income households must include a dependent child or a pregnant mother. Children old enough must also be enrolled in school and have up-to-date vaccinations.

A valid social security number is required, as is usually participation in a work program.

Inspector Cunha says that because benefits have only increased by 10% since 1989, the money must be distributed properly to avoid fraud and to ensure assistance reaches those most in need.

In response to the report, Republican State Representative Shauna O’Connell, who led the push for welfare reforms in the last legislative session, has introduced new legislation to target not only cash assistance fraud, but wasteful spending in all programs under the umbrella of the Department of Transitional Assistance.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr provided WAMC with a statement via email that reads in part,

“It’s unacceptable that taxpayers would be asked to pay more while millions are being wasted.  Equally unacceptable is the diversion of precious dollars to support those in need from people who deserve them to those who do not.”

In a press release for the report, the IG Office did state that the Department of Transitional Assistance is complying with eligibility rules, and is making changes to improve the eligibility verification system. But the Office also recommends improving and standardizing the eligibility documentation process, increase staff training, and enhance enforcement, among other improvements.


DTA staff later provided WAMC with a statement from Commissioner Daniel Curley:

“The IG’s report found DTA to be in substantial compliance with all of its eligibility regulations, but identified eligibility concerns in certain areas, where increased checks could result in savings for taxpayers. DTA has already enhanced its systems and processes in many of these areas, and will continue our efforts to strengthen program integrity. We are implementing new processes to check client employment and social security records and our Program Integrity Division retrieves millions each year for taxpayers through fraud detection efforts."

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.