The Whistleblower Institute announces that Virginia Department of Social Services reached a $7.1 million settlement.
San Diego, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/29/2017 -- The Whistleblower Institute announces that Virginia Department of Social Services reached a $7.1 million settlement over violation of the False Claims Act in its administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formally known as the Food Stamp Program.
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According to the Department of Justice, as part of the settlement, VDSS allegedly admitted that, beginning in 2010, it retained Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant, to reduce its SNAP benefits determination error rate by training VDSS quality control workers to "use whatever means necessary" to find a benefits decision "correct" rather than finding an error. Allegedly, VDSS also admitted that if its quality control staff "could not find a way to make a benefits decision correct," they were instructed to "find a reason to 'drop' the case, or eliminate it from the sample." VDSS allegedly acknowledged that this outcome-driven method, as implemented by VDSS between 2010 and 2015, "injected bias into the case review process" because it was designed to lower VDSS's reported error rate by falsely reporting errors as "correct" or eliminating them from the sample. Through its use of these biased methods, VDSS was improperly awarded USDA performance bonuses for 2011, 2012, and 2013.
In addition, VDSS allegedly admitted that VDSS quality control workers did not want to use the methods proposed by Julie Osnes Consulting because they believed the methods lacked integrity, injected bias into the quality control process, and violated USDA requirements, and that they communicated these concerns to their supervisors. VDSS admitted that the former VDSS quality control manager pressured and intimidated these employees to force them to adopt these methods, including, according to these employees, threatening termination, providing negative performance reviews, taking away teleworking and flexible scheduling privileges, and engaging in other forms of harassment and retaliation.
Reportedly, VDSS had taken certain corrective actions beginning in 2015, including terminating its use of the improper quality controls methods devised by Julie Osnes Consulting.
Virginia Department of Social Services is a state supervised and locally administered social services system. VDSS programs are designed to help Virginia's most vulnerable citizens find permanent solutions to life's many challenges.
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