Florida Assistance Programs Fraud Investigated

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The department that the public turns to when they feel they’ve been victims of fraud has been singled out by auditors. Auditors say the Division of Public Assistance Fraud is coming up short in a few areas.

Thousands of claims relating to Medicaid and food stamp fraud come into Florida’s Department of Financial Services every year. An audit from July 2011 to January 2013 recommended some changes for the Division of Public Assistance Fraud

The Division runs 7 regional offices throughout the state. The audit found regional investigators are overrun with cases....more than one thousand for every investigator in places like Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

Auditor Jack Heacock say high case loads increased the risk of claims taking too long. “We could always use more. Over the last 5 or 6 years the division of Public Assistance Fraud was cut in half by budget reductions.”

The audit also found the Divison of Public Fraud Assistance was spending nearly 8 million dollars and only recovering a little over 3 million.

Dominic Calabro from Florida TaxWatch say a higher return would be nice, but the program is preventing more fraud, and more money from being taken.“You obviously want to recapture more than you’re spending, that’s just fundamental business decisions and that may not always be the case.

But the deterrent effect has got to be phenomenal. “Our division has more than simply restitution to hang its hat on.” Heacock says the amount of money recovered during the audit period doesn’t show the overall success of the program.

From 2012 to 2013, numbers from the CFO’s office show more than 26 million dollars of potentially fraudulent benefits were withheld. The Division’s director disagreed with claim times taking too long. He said a majority of claims on average take 120 days or less to complete.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater agreed with all of the audits findings and the department is currently implementing changes.

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