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Friday, January 16, 2015

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Pay $48.8 Million to Resolve Federal Government's Claims that it Provided Benefits to Ineligible Aliens

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania will pay $48.8 million to resolve the federal government’s claims that it provided benefits to ineligible aliens in violation of federal law, the Justice Department announced today.  The benefits at issue were provided under three programs: Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

“The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that everyone, including the states, follows the law, but also recognizes the importance of these programs administered by the state that are essential for lower income individuals,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to protect taxpayer funds and ensure they are used for their intended purposes.” 

Under the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Act, enacted in 1996, only documented aliens who meet certain low-income requirements and who have been in the country for more than five years may receive non-emergency Medicaid, TANF or SNAP benefits.  The law also requires states to verify recipients’ eligibility before providing these means-tested benefits.  The United States alleged that, between 2004 and 2010, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided Medicaid, TANF and SNAP benefits to ineligible aliens in violation of these restrictions.  

“The staff of the civil division in our office has worked closely and diligently with our sister federal agencies, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the Governor’s office to make needed corrections to the operation of programs that are vital to low income families,” said U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  “At the same time, after lengthy negotiations, a fair and reasonable settlement has been achieved in the best interest of Pennsylvania tax payers.”

“Our agency will continue to work hard to ensure taxpayer-funded benefits are provided only to those eligible to receive them,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio for the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Philadelphia Regional Office.

“We are pleased that this issue has been resolved,” said Administrator Audrey Rowe of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food and Nutrition Service. “We will continue to work with Pennsylvania to ensure that the SNAP program is administered appropriately to benefit only those who are eligible.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Branda thanked HHS-OIG, USDA’s Office of Inspector General and Food and Nutrition Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, for the collaboration that resulted in the settlement. 

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  

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Updated January 16, 2015