While the rate remains relatively low, the sharp increase in the SNAP program means the total annualized dollar amount of fraud reached a record level of $858 million, exceeding the $811 million from 1993. This value had been dropping dramatically to a low of $241 for 2002-2005, then ticked up to $330 million in 2006-2008 before exploding in the current report to $858 million.
The report attributes much of the dollar increase to the growth in SNAP. Total redemptions more than doubled from 2008 to 2011:
A substantial portion of this increase is due to the growth in the program, where redemptions totaled $36 billion in 2008 (the last year of the previous study period), then increased to $55 billion in 2009 (the first year of present study period) and eventually to $73 billion in 2011.The latest figures show that SNAP redemptions rose again in 2012 to $74.6 billion.
The USDA study also found that the percentage of authorized SNAP stores engaging in trafficking went from 8.2% in 2006-2008 to 10.5% in 2009-2011, a 28% increase, but still not as high as an 11.7% rate in the 1990s.
Although food stamp trafficking is illegal, the report notes that
trafficking does not increase costs to the Federal Government, it is a diversion of program benefits from their intended purpose of helping low-income families access a nutritious diet.In conjunction with the release of the report, the USDA announced "Additional Measures to Improve Integrity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."
I don't usually link to reactions to my articles, but I thought the contrast of these two was interesting:
*Corrected. Originally said "Food and Drug Administration".
Note: A version of this article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.