GAO Reviews State and Federal Efforts to Combat SNAP Recipient Fraud in New Report
Section: Washington Update

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a new report examining the fiscal accountability relationship between states and the federal government related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Enhanced Detection Tools and Reporting to Combat Recipient Fraud Are in Development,” examines some of the ongoing concerns GAO has with potential SNAP eligibility fraud, including:
  • Prisoner verification to prevent receipt of SNAP benefits by incarcerated individuals.
  • Checking the Social Security Administration’s death master file to prevent receipt of benefits by deceased individuals.
  • Verifying information provided by applicants/recipients by matching with other data sources, such as local jails, schools and lists of lottery winners. 

In fiscal year 2015, SNAP, the nation’s largest nutrition support program, provided about 46 million people with $70 billion in benefits. Fraud has been a long-standing concern in the program, and state agencies are responsible for addressing SNAP recipient fraud. 

In this report, GAO looked at data in 11 states, and found that:
“Most of the selected states reported difficulties in conducting fraud investigations due to either reduced or stagnant staff levels while SNAP recipient numbers greatly increased from fiscal year 2009 through 2013. Furthermore, state investigators in all 11 states we reviewed were also responsible for pursuing fraud in other public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and child care and housing assistance programs.” 

Program integrity is not hindered by staffing issues alone, however, as GAO also found that the common fraud element of benefits trafficking may be found in the request for replacement cards:
“We identified 7,537 SNAP recipient households in these three selected states that both received replacement cards in four or more monthly benefit periods in fiscal year 2012, and made at least one transaction considered to be a potential sign of trafficking around the time of the replacement card issuance. We found that these 7,537 households made over $26 million in total purchases with SNAP benefits during fiscal year 2012… by comparing the number of benefit periods with replacement cards and the total number of transactions flagged for potential trafficking, states may be able to better identify those households that may be at higher risk of trafficking. This type of analysis may help provide a starting point for identifying higher priority households for further review.”

The full SNAP report can be found at