Audit urges tighter Ore. public aid eligibility rules

DHS seeks to consider lottery winnings, pay-outs

SALEM, Ore. - Secretary of State Kate Brown released an audit Wednesday recommending Oregon consider changes to the eligibility criteria used in public assistance programs to ensure that these important programs serve those Oregonians most in need.

"Public assistance has helped struggling families through the worst economic recession in generations by making sure they have food and health care," Brown said. "It is critically important to maintain public faith in the integrity of the system and to continue to help struggling Oregon families."

Brown commended the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services for agreeing to make certain changes, including seeking federal waivers to allow the agencies to take into consideration lottery winnings and lump sum retirement pay-outs. 

The purpose of the audit was to compare public assistance records with various other data sets to identify potentially ineligible recipients and recommend ways to prevent improper payments. It found recipient matches among:

  • Social Security Administration (SSA) death records;
  • Oregon lottery winners;
  • State prisoners;
  • Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) retirees;
  • Department of Human Services (DHS) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) employees.

During the secretary of state's review of these matches, they identified some ineligible recipients and improper payments, but they also learned that many individuals were allowed benefits under Oregon's expansive eligibility criteria.

The audit recommends Oregon consider changes to client eligibility and reporting requirements in state public assistance programs, balancing accessibility for the neediest with the most prudent use of public resources.

The secretary of state also recommends that DHS and OHA improve Social Security Number verification policies and procedures, continue reviewing data matches the secretary of state's office provided to them, and enhance efforts to recover any over-payments through collection efforts.

A copy of the audit is available online.

The audit team consisted of Deputy Director William K. Garber, MPA, CGFM; Audit Manager Sandra K. Hilton, CPA; Principal Auditor Jamie N. Ralls, CFE, ACDA; Senior Auditor Kyle A. Rossi; Staff Auditor Michelle A. Short; and Staff Auditor Clint J. Fella, MBA, CFE.

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