DTA Launches 100 Day Action Plan to Enhance Program Integrity and Improve Client Services
Enhances data matching and strengthens program integrity policies to help address issues raised in OIG report
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) today launched a 100 day action plan to enhance program integrity, restore public trust in its critical functions, and improve services for clients.
“Strengthening the integrity of our safety net services is a top priority for the Patrick-Murray Administration,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. “Currently, one in eight people in Massachusetts are served through these critical programs that provide access to food and cash assistance to help struggling families meet their basic needs. I know that we can always be better stewards of taxpayer resources and this plan puts the Department on the right track.”
The 100 day plan was launched under the leadership of interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan, who was given a mandate by Secretary Polanowicz to make swift changes at DTA, starting with her appointment in late February. The plan incorporates established best practices, brings increased oversight and training to the Department, and moves forward with technological enhancements to address issues raised by the Offices of the Inspector General, the State Auditor and federal regulators.
Last month, DTA launched its statewide ‘Bridge to Stability’ listening sessions, to gain public input on strengthening client services.
“Our mission is to strengthen our programs to ensure that only those who are eligible for benefits receive them,” said Interim Commissioner Monahan. “This plan will help us reach those goals, while ensuring that our precious taxpayer resources are used appropriately and only as intended.”
100 Day Action Plan Summary
Enhancing Data Matching
- Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) data matching
In process: The Department is in the process of entering a data sharing agreement with the RMV to obtain access to its data base. The RMV record review will allow DTA to verify all vehicles owned by the applicant and will eliminate reliance on client disclosure to obtain information regarding vehicle ownership. The Department is also working on “batch” data matching with the RMV to identify any potential undisclosed vehicle ownership on an ongoing basis for all adult cash assistance recipients. This match would identify all vehicles registered at an address and the approximate value of each vehicle.
- Department of Revenue (DOR) data matching
In process: The Department is working with DOR to improve the income verification process. A pilot program is in process with DOR to make employment information available at the time of application. This expands the data currently received by DTA to include self-employment income, rental income, and alimony.
- Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) - school attendance verification
To be completed in April: The Department is working with DESE to access statewide school attendance via an electronic data exchange to better assess compliance with this requirement.
Increasing Critical Program Integrity Functions
- ATM and Point of Sale (POS) withdrawal monitoring
Implemented in March 2013: The Department has begun a bi-weekly monitoring of ATM and POS withdrawals to identify any purchases made at prohibited establishments. DTA staff members are monitoring where transactions are located and visiting potentially prohibited establishments, such as stores that sell liquor and not groceries. DTA is following up on any potential violations with clients, retailers and law enforcement.
- Block prohibited items and establishments
In process: The Department is working with its EBT vendor, Xerox, to modify its EBT system to block cash withdrawals from ATMs in prohibited establishments.
- Implement $5 fee for replacement EBT cards
Implementation completed: EBT card replacement fees of $5 for cash assistance clients began in December, 2012. The total collected from cash clients through February, 2013 was $15,770. Total fee collections for FY13 are estimated at approximately $30,000 - $50,000. Early indicators suggest a 28% decrease in such requests.
To be implemented in April: The Department has received approval from the USDA to charge a similar $5 replacement fee for SNAP clients. Total fee collections for SNAP recipients for FY13 are estimated at approximately $120,000 - $200,000.
- Notice and monitor clients who request multiple EBT card replacements
Implemented in March 2013: Because multiple EBT card replacements can be an indicator of fraud, the Department instituted a process of review when a fourth replacement card is requested within twelve months.
- External audit
To begin in March: The Department is in the process of hiring external auditor Ernst & Young to perform an independent review and recommend further improvements and processing efficiencies in program integrity, administration, finance, and field operations. The firm will spend four to six weeks in the field and will file a draft report with DTA this spring.
Incorporating Public Input and Feedback
- ‘Bridge to Stability’ listening tour
Began in March: Interim Commissioner Monahan and Department staff has embarked on a state-wide listening tour that allows residents all across the Commonwealth to share ideas, provide feedback and suggestions on how the Department can improve. Following the final session, the Department will file a report with the Governor and Legislature that will incorporate the feedback we received during the sessions.
Building Towards Longer-Term Initiatives
- Additional technology enhancements:
Ongoing: The 100 Day plan also lays the groundwork for long-term initiatives including the development of a new Integrated Eligibility System (IES), hiring of additional program integrity and bargaining unit staff, and additional technology enhancements.
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