Computer system saves Washington State $2 million

OLYMPIA — The ability to electronically access and share information between Washington State, federal government agencies and other states about applicants for, and recipients of, certain Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) benefits has helped the state identify and stop abuse and misuse of more than $2 million.

Washington began using the Public Assistance Reporting Information System (PARIS) interface on May 1 of this year. Through November 19, the Department either terminated or reduced benefits by $1,961,695. It found another $158,878 in overpayments, allowing DSHS to begin collection actions against ineligible recipients.

"The vast majority of people are honest when they apply for our services, but there will always be a few who misrepresent their circumstances and take advantage of our safety net," said David Stillman, assistant secretary for the DSHS Economic Services Administration.

"We must do our best to ensure people who get assistance are legally qualified to receive it."

Public assistance agencies that enroll in PARIS sign one or more data matching agreements, permitting them to participate in quarterly matches of client eligibility and enrollment data files. Under those agreements, the assistance agencies' applicant and recipient data files are transmitted to the U.S. Department of Defense Manpower Data Center. It processes the data and transmits the results to participating agencies so they can look for clients collecting benefits in other states.

The PARIS interface looks for Social Security number matches in participating states, Washington clients' receiving income or medical assistance payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or other income through the U.S. Defense Department. The interface also can determine if Washington recipients qualify for federal health care coverage.

After PARIS verifies with the other states that duplicate benefits were received and abuse or misuse has occurred, DSHS takes action to terminate food, cash, and/or medical benefits and establishes, forwards overpayments to the DSHS Office of Financial Recovery and refers cases to the DSHS Office of Fraud and Accountability for investigation.  

During a performance review of PARIS, the Department's internal auditors determined using the interstate match created the potential for saving money. A dedicated unit was developed to use the information to determine eligibility and calculate benefits.

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