Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

FACT vs. FICTION: USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Over the last 15 years, the USDA has made great strides in our efforts to reduce fraud and abuse in its programs.  Payment accuracy has never been higher:  in FY 2010, 96.19 percent of all benefits were issued correctly, the fourth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate.  Without this improvement, the cost of improper payments would have been $356 million higher.  Trafficking in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has also declined, from four percent of benefits to its current level of one percent.  While these are positive trends, any trafficking or error is too much, and we will continue to be aggressive in efforts to improve integrity and maintain public confidence that benefits are being used responsibly.  But we know that misinformation and confusion about SNAP exists and so we have highlighted some of the most common misconceptions and presented the facts below.

Most SNAP benefits are going to people who could be working.
This is FICTION.

Most SNAP recipients were children or elderly. Nearly half (48 percent) were children and another 8 percent were age 60 or older. Working-age women represented 28 percent of the caseload, while working-age men represented 16 percent.

People on SNAP benefits are not employed.
This is FICTION.

Many SNAP recipients are currently employed but they still need some assistance so that they can put nutritious food on the table for their families. More than 29 percent of SNAP households had earnings in 2009, and 40 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings. For these households, earnings were the primary source of income.

The majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.
This is FACT.

Less than 10 percent of all SNAP households received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and another 5 percent received State General Assistance (GA) benefits. About 24 percent of SNAP households received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and over 22 percent received Social Security.

Most SNAP recipients are also on cash welfare and that trend is getting worse.
This is FICTION.

The primary source of income among SNAP participants shifted from welfare to work. In 1989, 42 percent of all SNAP households received cash welfare benefits and only 20 percent had earnings. In 2009, less than 10 percent received cash welfare, while 29 percent had earnings.

The SNAP program is full of errors and people are getting more benefits than they qualify for.
This is FICTION.

USDA and state partners are working diligently to improve payment accuracy and program integrity in SNAP. This year we announced that SNAP achieved the highest accuracy rate in history of the program. The FY 2010 national payment error rate of 3.81 percent represents the lowest rate in the history of the program and includes both overpayments and underpayments. Payment accuracy is providing the correct amount of SNAP benefits to eligible households and making sure that no one gets too little or too much in benefits—a shared goal of USDA and partner states.

Source and for more info here.

SNAP is full of fraud and trafficking is rampant.
This is FICTION.

Due to increased oversight and improvements to program management by USDA, the trafficking rate has fallen significantly over the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent in 2006-08.

Source & for more info here.

The federal government is standing by while trafficking occurs.
This is FICTION.

USDA and the Obama administration are actively working on behalf of American taxpayers to protect the federal investment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and make sure the program is targeted towards those families who need it the most. USDA aggressively acts to control trafficking by using SNAP purchase data to identify suspicious transaction patterns, conducting undercover investigations, and collaborating with other investigative agencies.

The authorities are using outdated methods to track and control abuse of the SNAP.
This is FICTION.

SNAP electronic benefits transfer (EBT) has given USDA new tools to identify, track, and take action against trafficking. We use the electronic “audit trail” from EBT transactions to identify trafficking and other suspicious activity. The Anti-Fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system monitors electronic transaction activity and identifies suspicious stores for analysis and investigation – a process sometimes known as data mining.

  • Of the 234,000 retailers on the program during FY 2010, over 14,000 were put on a watch list for further review by FNS compliance staff.
  • FNS is enhancing ALERT with more advanced technology and analytical tools. The new system will allow FNS to quickly implement improved fraud detection scans as new schemes are identified and help focus investigative resources on the highest priority cases. State-of-the-art enhancements will include:
    • Geospatial analysis to aid compliance staff in visualizing complex store location data;
    • Link and social network analysis and predictive models to identify retailers who are most likely to engage in trafficking; and
    • Trend analysis to quickly identify retailers with unusual spikes in SNAP redemptions

USDA dedicates staff to investigating and prosecuting fraud
This is FACT

FNS has a dedicated team of over 100 analysts and investigators across the country dedicated to SNAP retailer compliance. They analyze retailer data, conduct undercover investigations, and process cases – including fines and administrative disqualifications – against violating retailers.

  • In 2010, FNS investigators conducted over 5,000 investigations of stores suspected of trafficking or other program violations.
  • In 2010, 931 retailers were permanently disqualified from SNAP for trafficking and another 907 retailers were sanctioned for lesser violations.
  • FNS also works with State law enforcement authorities to provide them with SNAP benefits that are used in sting operations, supporting anti-trafficking actions at the local level.

The federal government doesn’t take any action when it does find cases of misuse.
This is FICTION.

USDA’s Office of the Inspector General also conducts extensive criminal investigations – many resulting from FNS administrative oversight findings and referrals – to prosecute traffickers.

  • In FY 2010, OIG’s SNAP investigations resulted in 195 convictions, including a number of multi-year prison terms for the most serious offenses, and approximately $36 million in monetary results.
  • In FY 2011, OIG devotes nearly half (48 percent) of its investigative resources to reduce nutrition assistance program vulnerabilities and strengthen program integrity in delivering benefits to individuals.

3 Responses to “FACT vs. FICTION: USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”

  1. sue geroge says:

    what is the correct provity level in surry county,27030, mount airy, nc???
    I am disabled and monthly check has been -0- within 2 weeks, afer paying monthly expenses. I rec. 16.00 SNAP
    Would you please let me know what the limit is to receive
    more allowance in me to web also. thank you

  2. Maria Fernandez Arguello says:

    I am a widower since 2 years ago and I receive just only my widower pensiom (US$1.320.oo) and I am needing healp with foods. I don’t receive any kind of help, and I have to pay for rent. The money isn’t enough every month. I hope you consider my case. Thanks. Maria

  3. LINK Solutions says:

    @Sue George; Since you are disabled, your situation is made more complicated. You do not mention what your actual check amount is, but in order for your benefit to be determined they first take your check amount, and then allow pre-set deductions. Additionally, the number of people in your home that you buy and prepare food with may change the situation as well. Your housing cost is an allowed deduction; your car payment is not. Your gas and mileage to and from the doctor or pharmacist is an allowable expense; gas and mileage to the grocery is not.
    To make sure you are maximizing your deductions, make sure that your caseworker is budgeting your utility expenses. If you are charged for heat or air conditioning (even if you only turn on the a/c once a year!) you qualify for the maximum deduction. If you have low medical costs, take time to consider what you actually spend on medical transport, medicines, doctors visits or doctor ordered over the counter meds or medical equipment. YOu only need $36 a month to begin to recieve a medical deduction.
    Finally, make sure they have the correct rent budgeted. good luck!
    @Maria Fernandez, you need to go to an office in your state that administers SNAP. If you don’t know where one is, call a local politician. They will probably be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Additionally, you may ask for a translator. It is plain from your post that English is not your first language, and that may cause you some confusion. If you feel more comfortable speaking in another language, the office administering SNAP will happily accommodate you.

Leave a Reply