Public Pays For Government Mistakes - WSPA.com

Public Pays For Government Mistakes

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The exact boundaries of each county are spelled out in state law. One of Union Counties borders is "a dead Spanish oak on the north bank of the Enoree river." The exact boundaries of each county are spelled out in state law. One of Union Counties borders is "a dead Spanish oak on the north bank of the Enoree river."
GREER, S.C. -
Think twice before cashing that government check.  Whether it's SNAP, Social Security or Unemployment, when a government employee makes a mistake it can cost regular taxpayers big. 

For Susan Yonkin and her disabled husband it was a way to put food on the table.  Yonkin, who collects social security and got many of her meals from local food banks, applied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which used to be called "food stamps".

"I applied online and they set me up with a phone interview," Yonkin said.

Yonkin told the state about her income and about her adult son who lives in the basement of her house.  She even sent officials at South Carolina's Department of Social Services two of her son's pay stubs to prove his income.
     
"Everything she asked me to do, I did," Yonkin said.
   
During a phone interview with a DSS employee, Yonkin learned her son's income disqualified her.  As a family, there was too much income to get SNAP.  Yonkin said the DSS employee offered her a solution.  Because of his age, older than 26, she could delete her son's information and receive benefits.
"I said i'm not the DSS worker, you are the state official, whatever's legal you do. I said I don't want to do anything wrong and she said you're not going to get in trouble, this is not wrong," Yonkin said.

Now, the state admits a mistake.  Yonkin is in trouble.

In court documents, a DSS attorney writes it was an "agency error" that paid Yonkin benefits for 6 months.  It's something that happens fairly often.

Nationally SNAP overpaid about $9.2 billion in benefits last year.  Nearly 70% of those mistakes were so-called "state agency errors"
DSS now wants Yonkin to repay all the money they mistakenly paid.  In letters sent to her family, the state says it can withhold the $2,477.00 from her Social Security.

It means Yonkin now not only lost her food stamps, she's worse off then before she asked the government for help.
Nationally the federal government estimates more than 4% of benefits are improperly paid.  It costs taxpayers $100 billion per year. 

South Carolina's DSS does much better than the national average.  The agency was recognized nationally in 2012 for an improper payment rate less than half the national average.  Federal law requires the state to try to recapture the money overpaid, no matter who was at fault.


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