Food Stamp Program:

Evaluation of Improper Denial or Termination Error Rates

RCED-88-12: Published: Oct 22, 1987. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the accuracy of Maryland's and Illinois's reporting of improper denial or termination error rates under the Food Stamp Program for fiscal year (FY) 1985.

GAO found that: (1) Illinois and Maryland detected 40 and 15 percent, respectively, of the improper denials or terminations that it found; (2) projected error rates were 22.5 percent for Illinois and 12.4 percent for Maryland, rather than 9.1 and 2.2 percent, respectively, as the states reported; (3) 42 percent of the households that the states improperly denied or terminated from the program lost benefits as a result of the errors; (4) the Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not routinely validate the states' reported error rates; (5) incorrect eligibility determinations, inadequate documentation of the basis for denial or termination, and failure to allow the prescribed time for the application process were three common errors local offices made when deciding to deny or terminate benefits; and (6) the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) only validated reported error rates if states were potentially eligible to receive enhanced funding.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to annually review a sample of each state's quality control reviews of denials or terminations and adjust states' reported denial or termination error rates accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FNS regional offices have been directed to conduct negative validation reviews of each state agency covering FY 1988 and 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to examine alternatives to encourage states to reduce improper denial or termination error rates, including seeking authority to hold states financially liable for their improper denials or terminations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FNS issued a report to Congress in July 1990, examining alternatives to reform its negative action quality control (QC) system. The report recommended strengthening the monitoring of negative action QC review practices, encouraging states to take steps to reduce high rates of improper denial, and holding them financially liable for persistent high rates.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to monitor states' quality control review practices to ensure that the appropriate cases are reviewed and the required number of reviews are completed on time.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The recommended monitoring will be included in the negative validation reviews FNS regional offices will conduct for each state agency for FY 1988 and 1989.

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