The National Merchant Association, otherwise known as the NMA, has been urging retailers to participate in the EBT program. EBT cards, an essential part of the food stamp program, are one of the main ways government-issued benefits are transferred. Other types of benefits are also loaded onto an EBT card.
An EBT card functions like a debit card, requiring a PIN for transactions. EBT card technology is slightly varied depending on the state. One of the great benefits of EBT is the way it simplifies the accounting process. Since there are detailed records of the electronic transactions, there’s less chance of dealing with food stamp fraud.
Causes Behind Food Stamp Fraud
There are a number of potential causes of food stamp fraud. One is for food stamp benefits to be fraudulently transferred from one person to another. Alternatively, a government agency may fraudulently transfer the benefits.
The recipients of food stamp benefits have the potential to participate in intentional program violations, otherwise known as IPV. This can result in a number of penalties like suspension, disqualification, fines, and even criminal prosecution.
If a recipient obtains or uses food stamps, they must not lie about their finances, omit facts about their circumstances, or willfully hide information. Recipients can’t use food stamps fraudulently. The fraudulent acquisition, transfer, or possession of food stamps is prohibited.
Attending IPV Hearings
If the violations in question involved misusing cash benefits, it’s necessary to attend the IPV hearing. However, if the violation was an intentional violation of food stamp law, it’s not necessary to attend the hearing. Regardless of whether you’re the merchant or the food stamp recipient, you have legal rights to both an attorney and an interpreter.
Administrative Disqualification Hearings
In New York, this type of hearing starts with a packet of evidence. If any state employees make an appearance during the hearing, the evidence packet will list their names and titles. The penalties will never be reduced at a hearing, since New York law outlines specific penalties in its statutes. Instead, the evidence packet will include the following:
- Your exact charges
- The gathered evidence against you
- The names of the examiners
- Further supporting documents
- Any prior IPVs
If you want to win your disqualification hearing, you must get a lawyer who’s familiar with the administration’s procedures. This lawyer will be able to examine the facts of the case and point out potential flaws.
The agency leveling the charges needs to present convincing, clear proof. Every rule about procedure, evidence, and service must be followed to the letter. An experienced lawyer will make sure all proper procedures are followed. If there’s any problem, your attorney will use this as grounds to fight the agency’s actions.
Another thing your lawyer can do is reduce your official income based on the application of expenses and lawful exclusions. If they can prove you have a low enough income for benefits, the agency won’t have a case. There are additional reasons you may need a lawyer in civil court. The agency may file a lawsuit against you or compel you to pay restitution.
There are a number of different factors that might have an impact on how food stamp fraud is determined. These tend to chiefly focus on discrepancies between household and individual finances or demographics.
Some potential reasons for a food stamp disqualification include greater than permitted daycare expenses or rent, unreimbursed medical expenses, and unreported child support. If a felon is incarcerated, they are not allowed to collect food stamps for family support.
If a family has a repeated or excessive need for food stamp benefits, this might also cause an investigation to be opened. People between the ages of 18 and 50 are expected to have a job.
Food Stamp Fraud Penalties
For a first violation, the penalty is being disqualified for 12 months. A second violation results in disqualification for 2 years. Third violations will permanently exclude you from the program.
After the administrative hearing, there might be criminal prosecution depending on the circumstances. There are longer disqualifications if you sold your food stamps to another person, particularly if you were buying controlled substances or guns.
Food stamp violations are considered a class A misdemeanor in most cases. However, if the fraud is more than $1,000, it’s a class E felony. Over $3,000 is a class D felony, and over $50,000 is a class C felony.