Scott Walker Vows Action On Public Assistance Fraud

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Tim
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged problems with the state's oversight of $9 billion worth of public assistance programs and said the Department of Health Services plans to unveil new efforts aimed at curtailing fraud later this week.

"There's a number of things from the stories we've seen and from other things that have come up since then we'll act on," Walker said when questioned at an unrelated event in Milwaukee last week.

In July, a Journal Sentinel investigation exposed widespread failures by state and local regulators that affect every public assistance program in the state.

Government workers don't verify actual income when applicants for aid report they are self-employed or have no income.

In one case, an east side Milwaukee woman tied to $4million worth of rental properties didn't disclose income from the rentals and received more than $150,000 worth of public aid for herself and her children.

In another, a Mequon businessman who owns or co-owns four rental properties, runs a math and reading tutoring business and lives in a $460,000 home received taxpayer-funded food and health benefits.

The health department's Office of Inspector General is now investigating both benefit cases.

In a story published this month, the Journal Sentinel described how federal incentives to boost enrollment in food and medical assistance programs have led to pressure on front-line workers to issue benefits even when they suspect people might not be eligible.

Supervisors eager to hit target numbers are instructing workers to process benefits for people already receiving aid in other states and to people in jail -- essentially anybody with an ID card.

While Walker and top health department administrators -- Secretary Kitty Rhoades and Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore -- have declined repeated requests by the Journal Sentinel for interviews on the issue in recent weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been swift to respond and are researching and drafting proposals they say will help ensure only those who are eligible receive benefits.

Walker declined to disclose details about how he plans to tackle the issue other than to say changes would be rolled out. ___

(c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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