Welfare fraud is one of the darker sides of the field of social work. As a crime in which an individual amasses state and/or government benefits by intentionally giving false information about their financial status and situation, it is essentially an abuse of a service offered in times of need. This type of fraud can deprive those who actually need assistance of obtaining more benefits.
An individual can commit welfare fraud in a few ways. One common example is when a beneficiary knowingly reports less income than he or she is earning since the information provided by the applying beneficiary determines what types of benefits (food, cash, medical care, subsidized housing) for which he or she is eligible, and the amounts of each one. A beneficiary can also claim to have more dependents than is true to obtain more money or other benefits. Lastly-and although this one is less common-a person can apply for benefits using different names or the identities of other people.
Steps to Combat, Convict, and Correct Welfare Fraud
To combat welfare fraud, which costs the government and states millions of dollars, those who are suspected of the crime are investigated. Workers from the welfare office obtain the applicant’s information based on the answers they give and can check it against bank accounts, contact employers to verify wages, and get in touch with landlords to establish the number of people living in the household.
Should it reveal that a beneficiary is committing welfare fraud, there are several consequences to ensue. The severity of the punishment can be determined by the amount the person fraudulently obtained and his or her criminal history. In some instances, criminals are forced to repay the amount of benefits they collected. They are also likely to be denied benefits in the future if they reapply. However, the most severe punishment is imprisonment, with some sentences in upwards of five years.
There are cases in which a person does not intend to commit fraud, but a welfare worker who believes otherwise investigates the beneficiary. Due to the severity of the consequences if welfare fraud is proven to take place, beneficiaries should ask for copies of the paperwork in their files to understand why they are being investigated. They should then contact a lawyer to sort the information and take the next necessary steps.
Seeking legal assistance is crucial to clearing one’s name, especially for an immigrant. Often, there are misinterpretations between immigrants who apply for welfare benefits and their workers due to language barriers. If charged with welfare fraud, an immigrant can have a difficult time getting citizenship and even face deportation in extreme cases.
If an individual on welfare benefits needs legal aid, they are unlikely to able to afford a lawyer. However, there are a few ways to get help. The first one is online; a person can get legal assistance from real lawyers through many public websites. The other method is by contacting local lawyers. Although there is a fee to proceed with the cases, some lawyers do offer free advice. Lastly, they can get in touch with a public defender. There is usually little to no fees associated with getting help from them.
Committing welfare fraud is a serious crime in which millions of dollars are issued to people who do not deserve them. As so, these potential frauds are investigated all the time to ensure only those who need assistance get it. If convicted of the crime, the consequences can affect whether or not that person will be eligible for benefits in the future to imprisonment. These are serious punishments to an arising crime, so if one believes he or she is wrongly accused due to misinterpretations, it is important to seek legal help to avoid the consequences.