Verifying the Need for Welfare
By Daniel Muniz
Now here is a radical idea. Suppose someone applies for welfare benefits and the government verifies whether or not such a need actually exists and is truly legitimate. And after the investigation, if the assistance is indeed warranted money is doled out within two weeks. But if the investigation proves that there are insufficient grounds for granting assistance, then the application is turned down. However, if an applicant refuses to allow his or her economic situation to be verified, then benefits are automatically denied.
Does this idea sound too good to be true?
Well, yes it is.
Welfare abuse runs rampant throughout the country. There are tens of millions of people who are shamelessly bilking their local, state, and federal governmental agencies out of money and services that they are not entitled to. And what is numbingly shocking is the increasing number of middle class people who are now receiving welfare benefits even though they already have good incomes. Evidently, the middle class has figured out how easy it is to rip off the system so they too want a piece of that government cheese.
But what is truly startling is the apparent ease for anyone to defraud welfare programs.
All it really takes is to fill out an application with bogus information. In fact, too many governmental agencies don’t care whether or not an applicant is lying. And in some ways, they don’t mind at all because that gives them leverage to claim that they require even bigger budgets in order to satisfy all of the needs of the poor.
However, there is one exception.
San Diego California has a verification process called Project 100% that actually certifies whether or not a welfare applicant is in fact eligible to receive their benefits “before” they get them.
They do this by sending an investigator over to the applicant’s house and doing a walk-through to confirm that the information on the application matches what they see. In addition, the investigators also have to authenticate all relevant criteria such as whether or not the applicant is a legal resident of San Diego and that the minor child they claimed does indeed live there and that he or she is really their legal ward, etc.
A mandatory verification process makes sense and seems reasonable. After all, if someone wants free money and government services, then they ought to be able to prove that they need it. That seems to be a practical request, especially on behalf of the taxpayer who is shelling out the money for this assistance.
In fact, it is plain to see why some people in San Diego wouldn’t want to consent to having their economic situation evaluated and verified as well as having their home visited by an investigator. They would be caught in a lie and then be denied of their benefits. In the past, it was so much easier just to let the government take you at your word to what your real financial situation was.
But even though Project 100% is a sensible measure to safeguard against fraud, not everybody was thrilled.
Poverty warriors were furious and the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit claiming that the visits from the District Attorney’s Fraud Unit violated the constitution’s Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures of the homes of poor people. And besides, lying to receive welfare benefits has been so ingrained in our culture that plenty of people no longer think that it is morally wrong.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that verification for welfare benefits by conducting home visits did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, this new lawsuit failed to pass muster in the federal district court as well as in the appeals court. And most importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revisit this issue.
So to the chagrin of poverty warriors Project 100% still operates its verification process. As a result, poor people in San Diego have to prove that they are legitimately eligible for welfare benefits.
However, there is another deeper issue involved. Why is it that there is a segment of people who believe that they have a right to “free” government money without any strings attached?
It is only natural for the taxpayer to expect that their hard earned dollars are being distributed only to the people who actually need it instead of it being funneled to the miscreants who want to rip off the government.
So why aren’t there more cities implementing a verification system that is modeled after San Diego’s District Attorney’s Fraud Unit especially since it has already successfully passed all the biggest legal hurdles?
Perhaps it is time for ordinary taxpayers to rise up and demand that their local officials become better financial stewards of their tax money. After all, it is your money and it is time for our politicians and public servants to spend it more wisely.