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USDA beefing up SNAP oversight

The US Department of Agriculture is considering new ways to look over your shoulder this year.

True, thanks to agencies like yours, USDA has seen its overall payment accuracy rate steadily improve in recent years. And the SNAP error rate is at a historic low. But the SNAP accuracy rate for fiscal 2011 appears to be set to slip back slightly (see chart) and all the nation's major aid programs are coming in for close scrutiny these days.

The bottom line: the USDA is beefing up its oversight of the states.

According to USDA's Fiscal Year 2011 Performance and Accountability Report, the agency's plans for the year include:

  • Awarding a contract and implementing an initiative for payment recapture/recovery auditing services for identifying, preventing and recovering overpayments.
  • Developing and implementing policies, controls, procedures, and checklists at appropriate levels to reduce improper payments.
  • Creating aggressive correction plans that target the verification, authentification, and administrative root causes of errors and address internal control issues for each program.

This last item on the USDA's action plan addresses the largest cause of error in SNAP and other food assistance programs: Verification errors, which USDA defines as errors that "...relate to verifying recipient information such as earnings, income, assets, work status, etc." This is by far the largest source of error of the three main categories that the USDA tracks.

All this scrutiny comes as participation in USDA's major food aid programs has reached 44.3 million clients, which means the programs have added 17.8 million clients since fiscal 2007 nearly a 70% jump in four years.

The good news is that one of USDA's stated goals this year is also to provide grants and technical assistance to state agencies aimed at simplifying the application and eligibility determination systems of SNAP.

We'd like to help, too. The Work Number gives you a way to check your entire caseload overnight against the nation's largest database of current employment records to detect unreported work. Or we can help with instant employment searches one-by-one as the applicant sits by your desk waiting for approval.

Learn more about how we can help you improve accuracy: send us an email to with "SNAP accuracy" in the subject line.

Newsletter: June 2012, Volume I

In This Issue: