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There are efforts to check welfare fraud

Our view: Local county seems to have handle on keeping fraud in check

 

We have all heard stories about how people who brazenly and fraudulently take advantage of the social services benefits that are intended for those who are truly in need.
On Tuesday, a county financial worker and two investigators updated the McLeod County Board on efforts to check fraudulent claims in the county.
Financial worker Donna Krauth said that her eligibility workers are the first line of defense. They have, she said, developed a “sixth sense” that lets them know “something isn’t quite right” with an application. The county typically flags four to five applications a month that may need further investigation.
Along with that sixth sense, the county will receive tips from landlords, neighbors and even family members about possible fraud. Social media is starting to play a role as well, as people post things that may put their claims in doubt.
Tom Klever, an investigator, called himself a “front-end guy” who tries to correct possibly fraudulent claims early in the process.
His job, he told the County Board, “is to discern between those people who are deliberately trying to pull something, and those who just don’t understand how things work.”
There is no doubt that public financial assistance is complicated, and many people probably make honest mistakes.
Jim Nielsen is a criminal investigator who works part time under the auspices of the McLeod County Attorney’s Office. It’s his job to prove criminal intent to take advantage of the system.
Although many are ready and willing to “rat out” those who may be abusing the system, it’s not always easy to prove, said Nielsen. Many times it’s a he-said, she-said situation.
For example, said Nielsen, there are what he calls “grandma dumps.” A parent dumps a child on a grandparent who then clothes, feeds and houses the child. When confronted, the parent will say the child is only “staying” with the grandparent, but truly “lives” with the parent. Nielsen then needs to collect testimony from school bus drivers, neighbors and others to prove that a child truly is not living with a parent.
Nielsen did point out that it is easier to root out fraud in a smaller county like McLeod, where financial workers “know their people.”
The good news for taxpayers, of course, is that efforts are being made to eliminate fraud so that the money can be used for its real intent — to help those who are truly in need.
— L.C.