WASHINGTON (WLAF)– The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) has agreed to pay the United States $6,854,416 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act in its administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Until 2008, SNAP was known as the Food Stamp Program.
Under SNAP, USDA provides eligible low-income individuals and families with financial assistance to buy nutritious food. Since 2010, SNAP has served on average more than 45 million Americans per month and provided more than $71 billion annually.
Although the federal government funds SNAP benefits, it relies on the states to determine whether applicants are eligible for benefits, to administer those benefits and to perform quality control to ensure that eligibility decisions are accurate. The USDA requires that the states’ quality control processes ensure that benefits are correctly awarded, are free from bias and accurately report states’ error rates in making eligibility decisions.
The USDA reimburses states for a portion of their administrative expenses in administering SNAP, including expenses for providing quality control. It also pays performance bonuses to states that report the lowest and the most improved error rates each year, and can impose monetary sanctions on states with high error rates that do not show improvement.
The settlement resolves allegations that beginning in 2012, TDHS contracted with a consultant known as Julie Osnes Consulting LLC (Osnes Consulting) to provide advice and recommendations designed to lower its SNAP quality control error rate. The United States alleged that Osnes Consulting’s recommendations, as implemented by TDHS, injected bias into TDHS’s quality control process and resulted in TDHS submitting false quality control data and information to USDA, for which it received performance bonuses for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to which it was not entitled.
This is the ninth settlement in this matter, and the eighth settlement with a state agency for manipulating its SNAP quality control findings. The United States has reached previous settlements with state agencies in Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Florida and Mississippi, as well as with Osnes Consulting and its owner, Julie Osnes. Including this settlement, the United States has now recovered over $67 million in connection with this investigation. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED 08/09/2021- 6AM)