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Rockland Welfare Fraud Detection Saves Taxpayers $628K

Ed Day
Ed Day Photo Credit: LinkedIn

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- The Rockland County Department of Social Services continued its efforts to combat welfare fraud in 2015, rejecting 89 new applications for public benefits due to front-end fraud detection. 

 The applications, made to DSS between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, resulted in $628,242 in cost avoidance to local taxpayers.

"Along with DSS Commissioner Susan Sherwood and District Attorney Tom Zugibe, my administration is working to make sure that people who steal from the system are brought to justice, protecting Rockland County taxpayers, as well as the limited pool of resources available to help our most vulnerable neighbors," said County Executive Ed Day. "We simply cannot afford to let our county's safety net become a hammock."

When applying for assistance with programs including Medicaid, SNAP benefits, housing or child care, social welfare examiners are trained to identify certain criteria that could be indicators of possible fraud. Suspect applicants are then referred to the front-end detection system for further examination where investigators confirm application information by interviewing applicants to confirm bank documents, credit reports and in some cases make field visits. False application information may result in denial of benefits.

Since the start of the Day administration in January 2014, front-end detection has denied 216 new applications due to questionable information. "Red flags" were identified by studying existing patterns of welfare fraud by clients already in the system and then applying the information to new applicants with the help of computers and old-fashioned investigative techniques -- from interviewing applicants to confirming bank documents, credit reports and in some cases, making home visits.

DSS investigators have also targeted hundreds of cheats already on the public dole. In addition to the 216 denied new applications, more than 250 active assistance cases were either closed or had their benefits reduced in 2014 and 2015, resulting in $2.3 million in combined cost avoidance. 

As for restitution, DSS recovered more than $557,000 in overpayments during the 21-month period ending Sept. 30.

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