Food Assistance:

Reducing Benefit Overpayments in the Food Stamp Program

T-RCED-95-94: Published: Feb 1, 1995. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1995.

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GAO discussed benefit overpayments in the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Stamp Program. GAO noted that: (1) although the Food Stamp Program is under the Food and Consumer Service's (FCS) jurisdiction, states are responsible for carrying out the actual day-to-day administration and operation of the Food Stamp Program; (2) FCS uses the Food Stamp Program Quality Control System to help monitor states' performance in issuing benefits; (3) in 1993, about $1.8 billion in food stamp benefits were paid out annually to individuals that either should not have received any benefits or received more benefits than they were entitled to receive; (4) most benefit disbursement errors are caused by inaccurate information provided by beneficiaries during the application process or when beneficiaries update their financial or household condition information; (5) states have not pursued as many claims against possible fraudulent or erroneous food stamp beneficiaries as required; (6) FCS and states have undertaken initiatives to reduce benefit overpayments; (7) some states have been successful in reducing overpayments and have qualified for additional food stamp funding from USDA; (8) although numerous factors contribute to states' success in reducing overpayments, the most critical factor is the commitment of food stamp program managers to aggressively pursue error rate problems; and (9) USDA has worked with states to reduce error rates by granting states waivers to a number of program regulations that exacerbate errors.

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