Tennessee Department of Human Services and USDA Food and Nutrition Service Renew Partnership with Focus on SNAP Trafficking

Friday, February 19, 2016 | 2:51pm

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) and United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) announced a renewed partnership focused on addressing SNAP trafficking. The two agencies are signing a new State Law Enforcement Bureau (SLEB) agreement.

SNAP is the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. SNAP trafficking refers to the buying, selling, and/or attempt to buy and/or sell SNAP benefits in exchange for money, drugs, guns, ammunition, or any other exchange on value. 

The new agreement gives DHS the authority to operate as a SLEB as designated by USDA-FNS. With this authority, DHS is empowered to partner with state and local level law enforcement.

“SNAP benefits support more than a half million Tennessee households which includes more than a half a million Tennessee children. DHS is committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and to addressing fraud, waste, and abuse with the intent to alleviate hunger and support food insecurity in Tennessee,” said DHS Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter. "The SLEB agreement is a collaborative approach to fighting SNAP trafficking and we appreciate everyone’s involvement in this effort."

“The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General-Investigations (USDA-OIG-I) is proud to partner with DHS, FNS, and other state and local law enforcement agencies in a proactive measure to combat fraud, waste and abuse in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the SLEB. Integrity in USDA programs exists as a high priority for the OIG, and the SLEB partnership will assist DHS in protecting the program’s integrity while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are properly utilized, states Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southeast Region, USDA-OIG-I.

“USDA has a zero tolerance policy regarding fraud and abuse of SNAP benefits. We are investing in innovative, forward-looking tactics, such as the pilot program announced today with Tennessee, to ensure that these vital nutrition assistance benefits are used as intended – to help America’s families in need put food on the table, ” said Robin Bailey, Jr., Southeast Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

The SLEB agreement is intended to assist state and local law enforcement if during the course of conducting retailer investigations, information is discovered that shows involvement between the retailer and/or others in the commission of SNAP fraud (e.g. other retailers, SNAP benefit recipients, and/or other individuals or entities that may or may not be authorized program participants). The SLEB, in this case DHS, is granted authority to broaden its use of SNAP EBT benefits to the extent warranted for the purposes of fully documenting the nature, extent, and scope of SNAP violations being committed. In fact, as recipient fraud is the purview of the department, SLEB investigators must, based on available resources, act on any and all SNAP recipient fraud that is discovered as a part of a non-recipient focused SLEB investigation.

Through the SLEB, EBT benefits may also be made available for the purposes of states’ conducting investigations involving businesses/organizations/individuals suspected of trafficking via social media websites and other means. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) will be an integral partner in this effort as well.

“Should they arise, we’re always prepared to assist in cases alleging a misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We look forward to continuing to work with our partners at the Department of Human Services to further protect the resources meant to assist our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

The partnership will kick off with a pilot in partnership with a local law enforcement authority to be determined by USDA-FNS and DHS. 

The Department of Human Services has recently launched additional information on its website focused on program integrity and efforts to combat fraud. To learn more, visit: http://www.tn.gov/humanservices/topic/dhs-inspector-general

If you suspect fraud contact the Department of Human Services Fraud Hotline at 1-800-241-2629, or email InspectorGeneral.DHS@tn.gov

 

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race,

color, national origin, sex, religious creed, disability, age, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992.  Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)          mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)          fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)          email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

 

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CONTACT:  Devin Stone

OFFICE:  615-313-5786

Human Services |Tennessee Bureau of Investigation