Report: “Obamaphone” Program Has Potentially Million of Ineligible Users

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Obamaphone Program Has Potentially Million of Ineligible Users
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Even though it wasn’t started under Barack Obama, the Lifeline Program — colloquially known as the “Obamaphone” — became a symbol of the expanding entitlement state under the previous administration.

Now, a report from the Government Accountability Office reveals largesse and fraud under the Lifeline Program is even worse than its conservative critics imagined.

According to the Washington Times, the report — conducted at the behest of Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat desperately trying to establish moderate credentials before her re-election bid next year — revealed over one-third of those enrolled in the program likely aren’t qualified.

“Some 10.6 million people have an Obamaphone, but 36 percent of them may not qualify, investigators said after sampling the population and finding a huge chunk of people couldn’t prove they were eligible,” the Times reported.

“More than 5,500 people were found to be enrolled for two phones, while the program was paying for nearly 6,400 phones for persons the government has listed as having died.”

That’s hardly surprising, considering the dearly departed have always been a key liberal demographic. However, the living proved just as able to get around the system as the inert and embalmed.

According to The Daily Caller, the GAO sent 19 investigators undercover to apply for Obamaphones using easily detectable fraudulent pretenses. In those cases, “we were approved to receive Lifeline services by 12 of the 19 Lifeline providers using fictitious eligibility documentation.”

Part of the problem is that there aren’t efficient checks to see if someone is eligible. To qualify for an Obamaphone, one needs to be on certain forms of government assistance, like SSI disability or food stamps.

However, the Federal Communications Commission left the task of screening applicants to the phone vendors, who profit off the program. Furthermore, they didn’t check through intergovernmental databases whether those who claimed they were on SSI on their Obamaphone application actually were.

In Georgia, an estimated 79 percent of those who claimed they were on SSI to receive a phone weren’t, and estimates for the United States at large are as high as 65 percent.

This massive fraud is beyond shameful, and the sad thing is that it was easily preventable. According to The Daily Caller, the GAO report noted “that after basic eligibility checks were instituted, the cellphones-for-the-poor program shrunk by a third, from $2.2 billion to $1.5 billion.

“In the 30 days following the addition of meager but previously absent anti-fraud measures, monthly payments dropped $40 million,” the outlet added.

There were other gems in the report (I was particularly impressed with the part where the program has $9 billion in funds stored away in private banks as opposed to in the Federal Treasury where it belongs), but the clear message is that a deliberate lack of oversight has facilitated kudzu-like growth of the Obamaphone program through willfully-ignored fraud.

If the program can’t be quashed — and I’m sure we’ll see some pusillanimity about going in that direction when Democrats start to cavil about the “fundamental meanness” of such a move — the least the administration and Congress can do is establish strict oversight. American taxpayers deserve better than to have their money squandered by politicians who find it politically inexpedient to prevent fraud.

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Source: conservativetribune.com

H/T Milo

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