Welfare Applications Rife with Mistakes

Jeremy Olson, Pioneer Press (Minneapolis), April 13, 2006

County workers made a high number of mistakes while processing health and welfare applications of noncitizens, including illegal immigrants, according to a legislative audit.

The results suggest that some noncitizens improperly received federal and state health benefits while others in need were incorrectly denied those benefits, according to the report, which was released Wednesday morning by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The audit reviewed 137 cases in six counties throughout Minnesota, finding mistakes in seven of every 10. While most of the mistakes made no difference, 18 percent of the errors may have resulted in incorrect decisions, said Judy Randall, who led the study.

“Eighteen percent is beyond a reasonable, allowable error rate,” she said.

The audit suggests as much as $200,000 was spent on benefits for people who were ineligible, Randall said. If these error rates were applied to all noncitizens applying for benefits in Minnesota, the cost could be in the millions. Randall declined to make such a projection, though.

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Noncitizens include legal and illegal refugees and immigrants. There were about 173,000 noncitizens living in Minnesota last year, and 44 percent of them received some form of public assistance.

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Only four of the 137 cases reviewed for the audit involved illegal immigrants. Randall said the audit didn’t check for cases in which illegal immigrants submitted fraudulent papers suggesting they were legal immigrants.

Some of the errors included workers entering the wrong immigration status in their computer systems or failing to track whether immigrants’ documents had expired.

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