HHS Needs To Determine If Massachusetts' AFDC Program Meets Federal Requirements and, If Not, Take Compliance Action

HRD-84-8: Published: Jul 9, 1984. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1984.

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GAO discussed its findings regarding the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare's administration of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

GAO found that the Department made erroneous AFDC payments in 1981, 1982, and 1983 and that the federal share of these payments was over $3 million. In 1981, the Department: (1) made estimated payments of $168,000 to ineligible AFDC dependents, aged 18 through 20, who were not regularly attending school, and to refugees for whom reimbursements were claimed under the Refugee Act beyond the act's 3-year payment limit; (2) made estimated AFDC payments of $240,000 to ineligible dependents aged 21 years or older and took an average of more than 6 months to adjust benefits after these dependents became ineligible; and (3) recorded an estimated 61 percent of the dependents' eligible status incorrectly in the automated welfare files. From February 1982 to August 1983, the Department experienced related problems in implementing federal requirements and made erroneous payments of which the federal share was $2.8 million. GAO found that the Department has experienced substantial data problems in its automated welfare files, such as erroneous or missing social security numbers and incorrect information about dependents' status. Further, there is no provision for automated cross-referencing between the separate files maintained on recipients and dependents, and there is no tracking system to ensure that caseworkers follow through to update case files.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The desk review guide was implemented along with the priority action listing and tracking system in 1985. In 1986, HHS validated its effectiveness in addressing the points noted in this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ascertain whether the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare has taken effective action to emphasize that field offices act to remove ineligible dependents from cases, adjust benefits accordingly, and otherwise improve case maintenance activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Massachusetts implemented its revised priority action listing and accompanying caseworker action tracking system during 1985. Its effecftive implementation, along with appropriate staff training emphasizing action on priority areas, was validated by HHS in 1986.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ascertain whether the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare has taken effective action to develop, for those cases identified as requiring changes, a tracking system to ensure that caseworkers follow through in making the changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Massachusetts' Deficit Reduction Act system operational plan contains procedures for recording U.S. entry dates for all refugee recipients and dependents. HHS plans to audit implementation of this system during FY 1988.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ascertain whether the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare has taken effective action to record U.S. entry dates for all refugee recipients and dependents in its automated welfare master files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Massachusetts has made several matches of the AFDC master file with a variety of databases, and continues to validate and correct SSN's and other casefile information on an ongoing basis, resulting in numerous case closures, as part of its Deficit Reduction Act system operational plan. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to audit implementation of this system during FY 1988.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ascertain whether the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare has taken effective action to validate and correct AFDC dependent case information in its automated welfare master files.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Actions taken by Massachusetts on the report recommendations, and validated by HHS, fully address the basis for this recommendation.

    Recommendation: If it is determined that effective actions have not been taken, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to take compliance action against the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare to withhold federal financial participation for failure of the State to comply with federal requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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