Small Percentage of Military Families Eligible for Food Stamps

FPCD-83-25: Published: Apr 19, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1983.

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GAO determined whether the reportedly large percentage of military families eligible for food stamps actually met the benefits criteria, and it reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) program administrative practices.

GAO found that only a small percentage of military families are eligible to receive food stamps and most of those families qualify only because their government-furnished housing is not counted as income. However, there are some families who would be eligible for food stamps regardless of their housing status, and USDA has provided them with the appropriate information concerning their benefits. GAO noted that, under certain circumstances, especially when parents are assigned away from home, there is potential abuse of the program. Inadequate reporting of income and housing status changes also contributes to ineligible families' receiving food stamp benefits.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On February 11, 1985, USDA stated that it does not intend to seek legislation to treat government housing as income for food stamp purposes. Nonetheless, this issue was again raised in another GAO report, RCED-85-109, dated April 17, 1985.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, should propose legislation to amend 7 U.S.C. 2014(d) to require that government-furnished housing be included in the gross income computation for determining food stamp eligibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On February 25, 1986, USDA stated that it does not intend to issue new guidelines. It also stated that current food stamp usage by military families represents less than half of 1 percent of all food stamp usage. Since participation by the military is so low, USDA does not believe that it would be a cost-effective use of its limited resources to issue and monitor the guidelines.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should issue new guidelines that would ensure that households would not become eligible for food stamps solely because of an active duty-related absence.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On February 25, 1986, USDA stated that it does not intend to recalculate food stamp eligibility for military food stamp recipients each time they receive a pay raise. Since food stamp participation by the military is so low, USDA does not believe that it would be a cost-effective use of its limited resources.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should instruct the food stamp caseworkers that, in addition to any other recertifications, they should recalculate food stamp eligibility for all military food stamp recipients at the same time the amount of the annually scheduled military pay raise becomes known.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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