WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Department of Justice announced April 10 that the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will pay the United States $7,150,436 after allegations of violating the False Claims Act while administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, was created to provide eligible low-income individuals and families with financial assistance for the purchase of nutritious foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds the program but the states determine whether applicants are eligible for benefits. They also administer the benefits and provide quality control. The USDA reimburses states for a portion of the costs of administering the program.

According to allegations, VDSS conducted a scheme in which it trained quality control workers to “use whatever means necessary” to reduce its SNAP benefits determination error rate.

The outcome-driven scheme, VDSS admitted, “injected bias into the case review process.” The process led to improper USDA monetary awards for 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“SNAP is an important vehicle for helping needy families,” said acting assistant attorney general Chad A. Readler of the DOJ's Civil Division. “This settlement reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring that taxpayer funds are spent appropriately so that the public can have confidence in the integrity of vital programs like SNAP.”

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